Level 3 elementary schools narrowly missed elevation| [8/17/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

Details of test scores available today for the Vicksburg Warren School District show several schools missed achieving a higher ranking by an extremely narrow margin.

Nearly all 9,000 students in the district took either the Mississippi Curriculum Test in second- through eighth-grades or the Subject Area Tests in secondary grades. The results of the test determine how a school ranks in comparison with others statewide.

&#8220I’m extremely proud of all of the elementaries,” said Superintendent James Price. &#8220The ones who didn’t achieve a Level 4 came very, very close.”

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Bowmar Elementary is the district’s only Level 5 school, meaning superior-performing. Three elementaries moved up to a Level 4, meaning exemplary, this year – Beechwood, Dana Road and Redwood. The other nine schools in the district remain at Level 3, meaning successful. Grove Street School, which houses special programs, did not participate in the tests.

Price said the school district remains at a Level 3, but if two more schools had reached Level 4 status, the district as a whole would have been bumped up to Level 4.

How narrow? If seven more students at Sherman Avenue Elementary had scored proficient or above on the tests, the school would have been classified as Level 4. The same goes for South Park Elementary, where 15 more students would have needed to score higher, and at Warrenton Elementary, where 12 more students would have needed to score higher.

&#8220We were very close, which is great news,” Price said.

The bar in the MCT is raised yearly, and this year for a school to stay at the same level an average of 15 more points per student needed to be scored, Price said.

On the opposite end, Dana Road reached Level 4 on the basis of only one student scoring in the proficient range. And Warren Central Junior High, which was a Level 4 last year, needed 37 more students to score at the proficient level this year to keep its status. Since that number wasn’t achieved, the school dropped back to Level 3.

&#8220Each year it’s increasingly more difficult to show adequate growth,” Price said.

Starting in 2003, school performance classifications have been assigned to schools statewide by the Mississippi Department of Education after results from all the schools are compared. The state’s ranking method meets the criteria later set in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools are rated from Level 1, the lowest, to Level 5, the highest, based on state test scores.

The levels are based on test results that show achievement and growth in reading, language and math tests. The ranking tests are part of a battery students undergo each year.

Federal data released today uses the same scores applied to a different calculation to determine if the schools met Adequate Yearly Progress, established under the No Child Left Behind policies passed in 2002.

According to federal and state requirements, the percentage of students performing at the proficient level or better must increase until, in 2014, 100 percent of students are achieving, at minimum, the proficient level.

Federal testing guidelines require that 95 percent of students in each of eight categories be tested. The eight categories are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, economically disadvantaged, students whose English-speaking skills are limited and special education students.

Also, if one subcategory does not meet AYP, the school as a whole fails to meet AYP.

&#8220We always have schools that fail to meet AYP in a different category either because they don’t score as high as we need them to or because we don’t test as many as we need to,” Price said. &#8220But it only matters if the same category at the same school fails to meet AYP two years in a row. That hasn’t been the case with us.”

For example, at Vicksburg Junior High, not enough students were tested in the special education category in math to meet the 95 percent requirement, so the school failed to meet AYP. But until the same group at the same school fails to meet AYP in the same subject area, no disciplinary action will be taken.

&#8220We did better overall than we did last year, but it’s a never-ending struggle – especially as the bar is raised higher and higher each year,” Price said.

The data released this week is &#8220unofficial,” meaning if a district has a discrepancy with the posted results, it can file a dispute with the state. The state Board of Education will approve the school’s ratings during its September meeting.