Though Oktibbeha County School District students showed marked improvement in state test scores for 2010, members of the district’s Board of Trustees say that improvement was not enough after their proficiency goal for the district was largely not met.
The county school board had set one of its goals for 2010 that at least 40 percent o all district students would score proficient in all tested areas on the Mississippi Curriculum Test II and in subject area tests.
Elementary students are tested in language arts and mathematics, while high school students are tested in language arts (seventh, eight and ninth grades), mathematics (seventh and eighth grades, students taking Algebra I) and biology and U.S. history.
Though the district made gains in seeing children improve from the minimal to basic levels, and basic to proficient levels, test scores for only a handful of subjects met the school board’s goal of having 40 percent of students score proficient or higher on the 2010 tests, according to a breakdown prepared by Supt. James Covington and presented to the board in a Monday morning meeting.
“This is simply unacceptable,” said board member Cynthia Ward, noting that the district spent a good bit of money hiring consultants to work with teachers in an effort to boost test scores. “How have we changed what we’re teaching. That definitely has to be tracked.”
“We need to be in the schools to know what’s going on and what teaching is going on with the children. After all the help we’ve brought in, this is unacceptable.”
According to Covington’s breakdown, only third grade students at East Oktibbeha County Elementary School met the school board’s goal of 40 percent scoring proficient in both language arts and mathematics.
At West Oktibbeha County Elementary, third and fifth grade students met the board’s 40 percent proficiency goal in both language arts and math, while fifth grade students did meet the goal in math, Covington’s breakdown shows.
At East Oktibbeha High School none of the students taking the language arts, biology and U.S. history tests met the board’s 40 percent proficiency goal and only those taking the Algebra 1 test met the goal among the mathematics tests.
At West Oktibbeha High, only seventh grade students met the board’s 40 percent proficiency goal in math and language arts, as did students taking the U.S. History test.
Scores on the biology test for both high schools show that students did not meet the 40 percent proficiency goal as set by the school board.
“We’re teaching basically to the tests,” said board member Yvette Rice. “We have got to have what it takes to proficient or advanced in these test scores.”
The areas where the board’s goal of 40 percent of students scoring proficient or better represents where the teachers of those students were “on task,” Rice said.
“The high schools in most areas did not meet the goal,” Rice said.
Covington, who again stressed that strides had been made in moving students from the minimal to basic and from the basic to proficient levels, said specific plans have been made to address meeting the school board’s proficiency goals, but declined to discuss them during the open session of Monday’s school board meeting because some plans dealt with specific teachers and administrators, which constitute personnel matters to be discussed in a closed executive session.
During a subsequent discussion, some school board members made a direct correlation to teacher-administrator absenteeism impacting student performance on subject area tests and the MCT2. Rice suggested that teachers not be absent from school at least 30 days prior to the scheduled tests unless in an emergency. Rice also suggest that teachers not be allowed to be absent from school to attend workshops when “it seems they go and bring nothing back” to help them improve student performance.
“Some people are taking these workshops as a means of getting away or taking time to get something in their lives in order, and we are not supporting that,” Rice said. “These people are going to have to be in the classroom during the school year to be sure the students score well on the tests.”
Covington reminded the board that MCT and subject area practice tests are conducted at various points during the school year to help gauge student performance. Practice tests for English II, Algebra I, U.S. history and Biology I and makeup tests for subject area tests are scheduled at the high schools from Sept. 20 to 24.
Board member Herman Ashford urged Covington to make sure teachers honestly report scores on all practice tests to ensure that student progress is monitored.
“Things have to be done to do more than just look good on paper,” Ashford said. “We have to instill in our teachers that they have to report from the beginning so we can help them improve scores.”
Ensuring that all students understand material being introduced is also critical, especially when it comes to assigning homework, Rice said.
“Parents aren’t idiots. They know when people are teaching and when they are show-boating. Teachers need to be explaining material to be make sure students understand it,” Rice said.
The county school board has previously set future proficiency goals for students on MCT2 and subject area tests for the following years:
• 2011 — 50 percent of all students will score proficient or better in all test areas.
• 2012 — 60 percent of all students will score proficient or better in all test areas.
• 2013 — 70 percent of all students will score proficient or better in all test areas.
• 2014 — 75 percent of all students will score proficient or better in all test areas.
In other business Monday, the county school board:
• Approved land management and forestry recommendations.
• Approved the district’s test security plan. Evaluations by state Education Department officials found no problems with security during MCT2 and subject area test administration, Covington reported to the board.
• Approved a supplemental bullying policy for the district as required by state law. The policy defines bullying, the process for filing a complaint and the procedure by which complaints will be investigated and action taken by school officials.
• Decided to hold off action in responding to the 2010-2011 Mississippi School Board Association survey asking the board members to rank the top three legislative issues for the 2011 session of the state Legislature.
• Approved consent agenda items for travel and per diem expenses as well as the district’s claims docket.