Couey thrilled with SSD scores

Starkville School District students improved their state test scores scores, according to data released publicly today by the Mississippi Department of Education.
“We’re thrilled with the results,” Supt. Judy Couey said. “Previously, we had two schools at risk of failing, and we no longer have that.”
After the 2008-2009 Mississippi Curriculum Test II, which tests students in grades three through eight, both Armstrong Middle School and Ward-Stewart Elementary were labeled as schools “at risk of failing.”
Though school accreditation labels are embargoed until the Commission on Accreditation meets in early September, Couey did report that both AMS and Ward-Stewart have improved, with WSE improving significantly, she said.
Last year, the SSD was labeled as an “academic watch” district, as were more than half the districts statewide.
Couey said she is hopeful the label will improve once the Commission meets based on the significant improvement of WSE and the slight shifts district wide.
The biggest improvement at WSE was seen in fifth grade math for the students who scored proficient. In the 2008–2009 school year, only 33 percent of fifth graders scored proficient in math. That number increased to 47 percent of fifth graders scoring proficient in math, according to the data released by the MDE.
The number of students scoring minimal in math decreased by nine and 10 percent for fourth and fifth graders, respectively.
Armstrong decreased the number of students testing minimal and basic in language by roughly three and nine percent, respectively, and increased the number of students testing proficient and advanced in language by 12 and almost two percent, respectively.
There were areas in the district where schools did not perform as well as last year. Third graders increased their language arts minimal score from 21 percent last year to 29.8 percent this year.
Third graders testing advanced in language this year were 10.6 percent, which is down from last year’s 15.9 percent.
Henderson Intermediate, who scored highest in the district last year, saw a nine percent increase in students testing minimal in language, but did see an eight percent increase in students testing proficient in math.
“Overall, district-wide, we’re about the same, but we’re making progress in our individual schools,” Couey added. “The credit goes to the teachers and principals... and nowhere do we want to leave out parents.”
Thanks to the implementation of new data systems like an easy test tracker in the district last year, teachers are able to have an instant record of every test score a child has earned throughout their academic career.
“Teachers are looking at that data and making teaching choices based on that data,” Couey explained.
Assistant Supt. Beth Sewell was responsible for bringing pacing guides to the district, which not only keeps teachers on track, but it also allows for students to take MCT2-like practice tests every nine weeks.
“We want the children to have some familiarity with the test (beforehand), similar to an ACT or SAT prep course,” Couey said. “We have to prepare them for the format and length of the reading passages.”
Teachers then input the practice test data into the easy test tracker so that progress is constantly monitored.
Sewell explained that the easy test tracker not only lets a teacher know where students are, but it also lets teachers know where they are when it comes to meeting certain benchmarks.
“It takes the guess work out from where (teachers) need to go from this point to the next point,” Sewell said. “(The easy test tracker) provides very beneficial feedback.”
“As a teacher, it can provide a lot of information for self-reflection,” Couey added. “They may find an instructional issue, and go back and teach a concept a different way.”
Teacher collaboration with other school districts and between grades will also be a big push for the coming school year. This will allow for teachers to talk to other successful school districts to find out methods that work and do not work. Staying in contact with teachers in the grades below and above allows teachers to eliminate gaps in instruction, as well as avoid going over the same material, which takes time away from teaching new, important material.
Both the easy test tracker and the pacing guides were implemented last year, but not for the full school year, and yet improvement was seen.
Couey and Sewell said they both are “very optimistic” that with both data systems in place on the very first day of the 2010-2011 school year, scores will improve that much more with the MCT2 testing next spring.
“We haven’t seen the full impact this data can have on this district,” Couey said. “Now that this is the first year we’ll have (the easy test track and the pacing guides) from the start, we truly hope to see bigger gains next year.”