The Mississippi Department of Education recently released the 2018-2019 state test results for Mississippi’s public schools.
The test, known as the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program measures student performance in English/Language Arts and mathematics in grades third through eighth and high school English II and Algebra I on the high school level. Performance is based on a ranking of one to five, with ranks four and five considered proficient and advanced, respectively.
According to Dr. Teresa Jackson, Superintendent of the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District, she was not surprised that the students in her district posted scores lower than prior years, but she was still “disappointed for the students and staff who worked so hard throughout the year.”
“The district’s leaders were expecting a lower accountability rating for the district,” Jackson said. “Proficiency [among students] wasn’t too terribly bad, but the growth [component] is what hurt us.”
Jackson said although test scores are down this year, the administration and faculty are trying to stay positive, as they start another school year. She said with last spring being the first state tests since the Montgomery County School District and Winona Separate School District consolidated into one, she is looking at this year’s performance as a starting point.
Jackson stated, “When the bill to consolidate the two districts was introduced, it allowed the new consolidated district to be held ‘harmless’ for the first three years meaning test scores would be published but would not negatively impact the new district. However, as the bill moved through the legislature that very important piece was removed. Although the first year of consolidation was a smooth one and considered a great success, there were still lots of growing pains for students, staff, and families.”
She continued, “It is realistic to say we expected to have a dip in the scores. In most areas, we did better than the state average, but we’ve got to continue to challenge the students and raise the bar.”
In English/Language Arts, more than 32 percent of third grade students scored in the proficient or advanced range. In the fourth grade, 29.3 percent scored in proficient or advanced range, and in fifth grade, 27.4 percent scored in the top two levels.
Approximately 29 percent of sixth graders at Winona Elementary School scored in the proficient or advanced range in English/Language Arts, while 25.6 percent of seventh graders scored in the proficient or advanced range. Approximately 31 percent of eighth grade students scored in the top two tiers.
In mathematics, nearly 45 percent of third graders scored proficient or advanced, while 20.3 percent of fourth graders posted scores in the top two tiers. In fifth grade, 25.3 percent of students posted scores in the proficient or advanced range, and in sixth grade, 50 percent of students posted in the top tiers. In seventh grade, 33.3 percent of students scored in the proficient or advanced range, while in eighth grade, 29.5 percent of students scored in the proficient or advanced range.
At Winona High School, 32.9 percent of English II students posted in the proficient or advanced range, and in Algebra I, 21.3 percent of students posted in the top two tiers.
“We don’t have a lot of students in the lowest category [Level 1], but that shows the importance of growth,” Jackson said.
Jackson said although the official accountability ratings have not been released, she expects the district and both schools to have earned a D, judging from the recent scores.
“A ‘D’ doesn’t define the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District,” Jackson said. “But that is the accountability model, and that’s how it all shakes out. We aren’t used to being here, and are not satisfied to remain at this level of student achievement.”
Jackson said the district’s leadership team and faculty have already put in motion things to help improve student achievement this year.
The district has been using the iReady software for the last couple of years to help students improve scores on an individual level, but with the consolidation, there are some students who are new to the program this year.
“We have hired the best student services officer, [with Rana Mitchell],” Jackson said. “We also hired a psychometrist and case manager [BJ Fennell] to work with our students with special needs. We have a significant percentage of special-need students in our district.”
Jackson said the district added two new assistant principals, Donna Bishop at Winona Secondary School and Stacey Johnson at Winona Elementary School, “in order to allow school administrators to have more time to focus on curriculum and instruction.”
Also, the district uses parents’ nights, where parents can find out how they can help their children perform better in the classroom.