Starkville School District Assistant Superintendent Toriano Holloway gave presentations Monday explaining SSD Title I expenditures and programs to parents at the Greensboro Center.
The federal Title I program generates funds used for smaller classes, special instructional spaces, additional teachers’ aides, social workers, professional development and more to help students in schools where children are in poverty, Holloway said.
“It’s based on the percentage of your students who are on free and reduced lunch or low income,” Holloway said. “You have to have 40 percent or more that are from low-income families, and you have to do an application process to get the money.”
Holloway’s presentation included exact annual figures for Title I funds the SSD receives. A total of $1.19 million goes to the SSD, Holloway said, with $226,091 for Sudduth Elementary School, $142,444 for Ward-Stewart Elementary School, $72,362 for Henderson Intermediate School, $195,650 for Armstrong Middle School, and $188,172 for Starkville High School.
“Each school designates how they’re going to spend (those) funds through the use of a shared decision-making committee, which involves parents,” Holloway said. “Most of our funds at each school are spent on personnel along with supplemental educational programs. We also have a certain amount of money we have to set aside for parental involvement.”
Holloway said parental involvement requirements for Title I funding include regular, two-way, meaningful conversation between parents and faculty that ensures parents are engaged in their children’s learning processes. One way Holloway said the SSD plans to boost parental involvement is through its new Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing program.
“In MAP testing, every child will get a parent-student contract that lists the student’s strengths and weaknesses that the parent and the kid have to sign off on,” Holloway said. “Our parents will have a tutor to work with their child, because a lot of parents want to work with their children but don’t know how, and that will give them specifics on what you can do to help your child improve.”
One parent in the audience, Jonita Thompson, said she was concerned about how well she would be able to implement the tutoring MAP test results recommend.
“As a parent, I try to do what I can,” Thompson said, “but at the same time ... I’ve been out of school over 20 years.”
Also in the audience was Elizabeth Mosley, principal of Armstrong Middle School, who addressed Thompson’s question. She said it’s common for parents to forget some skills taught in high school because they may not use them on a daily basis. For this reason, she said, SSD has partnered with Mississippi State University and its math department, and AMS math teachers are set to help parents tutor their children at 5 p.m. Wednesday in AMS’s library.
“It’s a crash course in mathematics for parents,” Mosley said. “We’re going to try to do it each nine weeks, (to) help parents with their math skills so they can help students at home.”
Holloway also updated parents on a flexibility request the state of Mississippi filed in relation to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A handout from the Mississippi Department of Education Holloway distributed said NCLB reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA), setting proficiency goals for schools.
Holloway said the federal government has passed legislation that lets schools opt out of No Child Left Behind if 100 percent of their students score “proficient” in language and math state tests by 2014. When the federal government approved the state’s ESEA flexibility waiver, he said, schools received different proficiency expectations.
“What it did was individualize each group’s proficiency level, giving each subgroup a proficiency level to reach by the year 2017,” Holloway said. “It classifies schools as either ‘High Reward,’ ‘Reward,’ ‘On Target,’ ‘Focus,’ or ‘Priority.’ All the schools in the Starkville School District were labeled ‘Focus’ schools.”
There are two ways a school can be identified as a “Focus” school, Holloway said. First, a school receives the label if it has the state’s largest in-school achievement gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students, he said. Second, a school receives the label if its lowest-achieving subgroup has lower results than those of other schools’ lowest-achieving subgroups.
“As a result of that (‘Focus’ label), we have to designate 10 percent of our Title I money for programs specifically targeted at those (lowest-achieving) students. What our school district has chosen to do is purchase a program called Compass Odyssey that individualizes for every kid (in kindergarten through eighth grade) a plan to help them improve their academic achievement.”