Poplarville improves, PRC maintains, Picayune falls

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pearl River County has a top ten school district within its borders, according to accountability scores based on state testing results.

According to the information from the Mississippi Department of Education, Poplarville School District moved from a B grade to a grade of A for 2017.

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Those scores were based off of the student’s proficiency in reading, math, U.S. history and science, in combination with the growth in math, reading and college and career readiness.

Based on those scores, Poplarville earned a total score of 686, placing the district 9th overall in the state.

Pearl River County School District maintained its B grade between last and this year, earning a total score of 620. That district ranked 41st out of a total of 141 in the state.

Picayune School District dropped a letter grade from a B to a C, with an overall score of 556. That score put 80th in the ranking.

Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell with the Picayune School District said he and other leaders are meeting with the administrators of each school individually to go over the student data collected from the state test last year with the goal of putting a plan in place to improve that rating. 

Curriculum Director Mary Williams for the Picayune School District said the reason for the falling grade was due to a large increase in points the District saw the year prior, combined with the small increase in points seen this year. She said the state wants districts to not only see the same level of point increases as the year before, plus an increase on top of that.

“We feel like even though we showed a gain, it was not enough to hold us where we were. The new accountability model (requires) growth each year,” Williams said.

She compared the new requirements to playing a game where the rules change after the fact.

“I’m very proud of our District. We still showed growth, but not enough when held against the accountability model,” Williams said.

To ensure the District does see an increase in its grade next year, teachers are analyzing testing data to establish the weakest areas for students. So far, Williams said the District is aware that one of the major weak points are math scores.  And while the District saw gains in points at the Picayune Junior High and Picayune Memorial High School, losses were experienced in the elementary schools.

“We’re working hard to raise the bar and to have our students and teachers be effective,” Williams said.

In Poplarville, Superintendent Carl Merritt said the increase to an A grade was the result of a team effort by everyone, including teachers, support staff and the students.

“We like it and we want to do it again,” Merritt said.

To reach that goal, the District only made decisions that had the data to support it, Merritt said. Assistant Superintendent Tonya Miller said that involved putting a new diagnostic into play for the first eight grades, which showed where each student was in order to create a path to get them where they needed to be by filling in the gaps.

Miller and Merritt said the plan to keep a grade of A is to keep digging deeper and working harder this year to maintain if not improve the District’s score.

Within the Pearl River County School District, Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said he is proud of his teachers and support staff for maintaining a grade of B. However, his goal is for the District to improve to an A by utilizing rigorous instruction to keep up with the increasing requirements of the state.