Covington bullish on OCSD scores

The latest Mississippi Curriculum Test II scores show that Oktibbeha County School District students are “moving in the right direction,” Supt. James Covington says.
MCT2 results were released publicly today by the state Department of Education.
“But we won’t be satisfied till all schools and all scores are at the acceptable level,” he added.
The biggest gains in the district were seen in moving children from minimal to basic, and from basic to proficient.
Though there wasn’t as big of an increase in terms of advanced students, Covington is pleased with the reduction in minimal and basic scores, and the increase in proficient scores, he said.
Third grade minimal math scores were decreased by 18 percent from last year, and third grade proficient scores doubled from last year’s 26 percent. Third graders also increased their language proficiency from 25 percent last year to 43 percent this year.
More than 16 percent of seventh graders reduced their minimal language score, and increased their proficient scores 14 percent. MDE reported a 13 percent increase in sixth grade language test scores, but a two percent decrease from last year’s five percent advanced math score to this year’s three percent advanced math score.
There were scores that were not as high as last year, but for the district as a whole, the move was in a positive direction.
Last year, the OCSD sought the help of outside consulting firms to go into the schools and help principals and teachers realign what was being taught in the classroom with the state curriculum framework.
Covington did this after both West High and Elementary were labeled as “failing” schools, and both East High and Elementary were labeled as schools “at risk of failing.”
The district as a whole was labeled “at risk of failing.”
However, the consulting firms did not make their way into the schools until the spring semester, so this year, Covington is looking forward to getting the consultants in within the next week or so, he reported.
“I think we should see more gains this coming year by getting (the consultants) in earlier,” Covington said.
Just as Covington hopes to get consultants in the schools early, he prepared teachers to make the first days of school instruction days instead of easing the students back into the routine from summer vacation.
“We set the expectations early in the summer that school begins day one,” he said.
“Teachers were prepared with bell ringers on the board at the start of class on the very first day.... During the summer months, students lose what they learn, so we hit the ground running, and kids knew they were in school because it was time to work.”
The district administrators have always administered MCT2 practice tests throughout the year, but Covington says now the practice tests are more closely linked to the types of questions asked on the MCT2, which really forces rigor and relevance.
“Now, we’re making it more practical throughout the curriculum,” Covington said of moving the district to incorporate more rigor.
“Teachers have to be trained to design questions like the state test. It’s going to take on-going professional development, but we’re committed to that process.”
He explained that teachers are still trying to teach themselves, through the help of professional development, how to challenge the students to think at a level beyond simple recall, which is different than even the state required until the MCT2 remodel that took place just a few years ago.
“Teachers are forced to think outside the box so that they can make students think outside the box,” he said. “Student can and will do it — we don’t need to make excuses — and I think the students will rise.”
“One of my biggest pushes this year is to make sure administrators get out of the office,” Covington added of his goals.
Covington said he hopes that by having principals out of the office and in the classrooms monitoring instruction, teachers will have constant input from administrators on things they are doing well and things they need to improve on.
“Instruction is first and foremost,” Covington explained. “If we can get students active and learning, they will have more fun, and that in turn will minimize discipline, which impedes academic process.”
Covington said he is confident that the combination of the consultants, increased rigor and principal interaction the district will continue to see gains with each passing year.