SOCSD test results show promising signs



Staff Writer

The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District has received its state testing results for the 2017-2018 school year, and promising signs abound.

The district showed almost across-the-board improvements, with considerable improvements at several schools in the categories of English-language arts (ELA), math and science. Schools across the state received their results this week, with accountability letter grades anticipated in mid September. The district is currently rated at a C.

“We’re really excited about the response we got from our teachers and then our students from the teachers over the past year (to) some changes that we put in place as we have come in and made some adjustments in our instructional programs in our district the way we do things,” said Superintendent Eddie Peasant.

Peasant described the new strategy as changing the focus from “programs to people.” The strategy involved increasing the capacity of teachers to be in control of instruction and learning in the classroom.

"As a result of that, we feel like we’ve seen a significant growth and progress in our students’ academic performance, the past year, and based on the state assessments, our growth in all areas and proficiency in most areas have increased from a year ago” Peasant said. “We’re really proud of the work that has gone on. Like I said, teachers have done a phenomenal job working with our students to give them the opportunity for success.”

Assistant Superintendent Christy Maulding said the results included both proficiency and growth. She said experts labeled any growth above five percent as best-case scenario growth from one year to the next.

Henderson Ward Stewart saw more than 11 percent improvement in ELA proficiency and an increase of more than 27 percent in students making growth. Math saw 10 percent growth, district wide, and ELA saw more than 23 percent.

West Elementary saw an increase in ELA proficiency of more than 14 percent, and six percent science proficiency. Overstreet Elementary saw a more than 10 percent increase in ELA growth and more than 12 percent growth in math, more than 12 percent growth with lower-performing students in ELA and 14 percent growth with lower-performing students in math. The school also saw more than 11 percent growth in science proficiency.

Armstrong Middle School’s math proficiency and growth increased more than 12 percent. The school also saw more than seven percent growth in science proficiency.

Despite the promising numbers, Peasant and Maulding both said they wished they had seen the district’s achievement gap between low and high performing students close more than it did.

“We certainly want to show more than 13 percent growth with our lower-performing students, so we want to increase growth in our lower-performing students,” Maulding said. “That’s one of the areas we want to focus on. We want to separate the gap between our high-performers and all the rest. Excellence isn’t just one group of students performing successfully. Excellence is for all of our students. We just want to see our group as a whole grow like our high-flyers grow.”

Peasant said the test scores were a good predictor for accountability letter grades.

“Points are gained based on the number of students who are proficient,” Peasant said. “It’s also based on the number of students who show growth from one year to the next. The more of that we have, the more we get on a model that will equate to higher (accountability) grades.”

Peasant also emphasized that despite the importance of the scores, they wouldn’t show everything.

“Ultimately, it’s about ensuring that students are performing at their highest potential, regardless of what the grade comes in at for our school district,” Peasant said. “You know, for me it’s about all of our students having opportunities for success, and being able to show growth from one year to the next.”

Peasant said the district would continue on a similar course in regards to its method for state testing.

“Everything we’ve talked about since the beginning of the process, we’ll continue to improve upon it and work towards it,” Peasant said. ”Our strategic plan is in place, which will guide us on our path over the next five years, which is in line with everything we’ve done this past year.”

Peasant said the district planned to continue emphasizing the importance of relationships between teachers, administrators and students.

“If we’re going to do what’s best for our kids, I think we’re going to have to have a focus on data and assist students to develop and grow,” said Director of Accountability, Accreditation and Assessment Tim Bourne. “It’s just not about those kids that are at the top. It’s just not about the kids that are at the bottom. It’s about every kid gaining at least one academic year of growth.”