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County school board discusses MCT exams

April 2, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

The Oktibbeha County School District Board heard a series of reports from school principals on successful efforts to improve Mississippi Curriculum Test practice test scores at its meeting Monday.

In executive session, the board also approved the termination of one bus driving position and the retirement of Jerome Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, after 42 years in education.

James Covington, county superintendent, said the practice test scores are evidence of students’ and teachers’ hard work, and this hard work will continue up through the actual MCT.

“All of this has been practice,” Covington said. “We’ve still got some tightening of belts to do before the tests. We’re still looking at what our strengths are and clustering children together with like differences and like weaknesses. We’ve been told this last practice test should mirror the state assessment. If so, we’re going to be fine.”

The Mississippi Department of Education uses the MCT to calculate the Quality Distribution Index for schools and school districts, giving them labels: failing, low performing, academic watch, successful, high performing or star school. Out of a possible 300 points, the MDE considers anything below 100 failing.

Yolanda Magee, East Oktibbeha County Elementary School principal, said teachers are going over data graphs on a weekly basis to assess weaknesses and strengths. She said EOCES will also host three “Super Saturday” workshops leading up to the test. EOCES’s practice test QDI was 112, versus a QDI of 101 in 2011.

“During (‘Super Saturday’) workshops, students and parents will be able to participate in engaging MCT activities to increase test achievement and parental awareness,” Magee said. “Also, we have grouped our students based on our last MCT practice tests and they are going into those groups in different teachers’ classrooms based on their strengths. One teacher may be a fifth grade teacher who is teaching a sixth grade student, because there is a deficiency with that student in a particular area. So to close the gap, the teacher that is an expert in that area will help that particular student, and then they’ll go back to their regular classroom.”

Helen Kennard, principal of East Oktibbeha County High School, said teachers are building “Credit Recovery Packets” to help students catch up on skills taught during the third nine-week grading period which they have not yet mastered.

EOCHS’s practice test QDI was 120.6, versus a QDI of 96 in 2011.

“We realize that some students already have gaps, and if we don’t allow them the time or re-teach, the gap only widens,” Kennard said. “We’re (also) going to take our P.E. time and we’re going to turn that into an ‘Hour of Power’ study hall.”

Andrea Temple, West Oktibbeha County Elementary School principal, said teachers are pushing the Accelerated Reader program hard, tracking the number of words students read each week.

She said they are also incentivizing success with honor uniforms and cafeteria privileges. WOCES’s practice test QDI was 165.6, versus a QDI of 147 in 2011.

“We have a data room to assist our students, teachers and administrative team,” Temple said. “We have classroom data as well. The teachers post their QDI outside the door so everyone in the building will be aware of their assessments and how well they score each week. It’s so important for teachers to have accountability, along with the students as well.”

Leonardo Thompson, West Oktibbeha County High School principal, said an after-school program focusing on English, U.S. history and biology has been successful, along with Saturday school programs. He said several volunteers come to help with Saturday school, including students from Mississippi State University’s College of Education. WOCHS’s practice test QDI was 172.4, versus a QDI of 104 in 2011.

“It’s a two-hour program on Saturdays, sometimes stretched to three hours,” Thompson said. “Snacks are provided, and I pay for it out of pocket myself. We’re scheduled for two more Saturdays before the test, April 14 and April 28. We got participation by sending letters home to the parents, and we also called parents. It was kind of a shock to see the turnout of all the parents. They helped out (and) got the kids there.”

The board also approved a 2012-2013 vocational budget plan for a consortium with Millsaps.

Covington said this year, the consortium will give students more options for class combinations to graduate from high school, allowing them to choose vocational specializations akin to majors in college.

The board made plans to meet jointly with the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors May 7 at 5 p.m., just before its next regular meeting.

Covington said the two boards will discuss ways to improve roads leading to schools and other ways the county could help improve campuses.

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