By CARL SMITH
Starkville School District maintained its successful accountability rating and slightly increased its overall Quality Distribution Index, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.
Ward Stewart (grades 3-4), Henderson (grade 5) and Starkville High School (grades 9-12) received individual successful designations from MDE, while Armstrong Middle School was downgraded to an academic watch designation. The district’s five-year graduation rate was measured at 71.8 percent.
Accountability results are based on state scores from the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 (MCT2) and the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP).
Since 2011, the district’s overall QDI score increased four points to 155. Individually, Ward Stewart (164) and Henderson (158) saw increases to their QDI scores — a 16-point and 14-point jump, respectively. Ward Stewart’s 2012 QDI score — 164 — places the school 2 points shy of a high performing designation.
While two district schools saw QDI increases, SHS and AMS both experienced drops. Although SHS maintained its successful rating with a 163, its score experienced a 14-point decrease. AMS experienced a 3-point drop — 152 to 149 — and its accountability rating was downgraded because it did not meet state-mandated growth requirements.
In a release, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said he is impressed with district educators’ hard work and their students’ results in an ever-changing environment. The district, he said, has identified areas to increase educational efforts and realign resources to provide additional support.
“We’re disappointed with these (QDI drops), and we’re not where we would like to be,” he said in the release. “We have a significant gap between our highest and lowest performing students. We would like to see more growth, and we would like for that growth to be accelerated.”
According to school district officials, that achievement gap identifies SSD as a focus district according to the new federal accountability model for Mississippi.
The new federal model is the result of a waiver the state received from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
SSD will soon utilize Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments to provide students with individual education plans. MAP, an online testing program, provides detailed reports on students’ academic strengths and weaknesses, and plans to help guide instruction.
“That’s why the district is moving to the MAP assessment, which in my opinion is a far better testing instrument,” Holloway said in the release. “It’s going to provide the teachers and parents a wealth of information on what students need to be learning to make a year’s progress.
“The MAP assessment will give teachers and parents the exact items that students need to learn,” he added. “For the first time, teachers will know specific items a student must be taught to be on grade level.”
SSD Board of Trustees President Keith Coble said MAP testing is a step in the right direction for the school district. While Coble said he was proud of the district’s overall rating and the individual schools’ improvement, he said officials should focus on improving scores across the board.
“I think we’ve had a very productive conversation with Dr. Holloway about our results. I appreciate the proactive stance the administration has taken so far,” Coble said. “We’re very happy to see progress, but obviously we … want to see the other schools’ grades come up. I think we’ll hear answers (on how to deal with lower QDI scores) in the next few weeks.”
The MCT2 is scheduled for replacement in 2015 with a new online assessment aligned with Common Core standards, another reason SSD is implementing MAP testing. MAP is already aligned with those core standards, Holloway said in the release.
The new federal accountability model, referred to as Mississippi’s Differentiated Accountability Model, also requires 85 percent of students to be proficient and advanced by 2017.
“We believe that is a realistic goal for the Starkville School District,” Holloway said in the release.