Math scores scrutinized by years, teachers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reams of test data were still being analyzed this week with Vicksburg Warren School District math scores getting the most attention, said Superintendent Dr. James Price.

“I worked on Algebra I scores over the weekend and broke the results down by teacher, ” Price said. He also looked at test results from previous years sorted by teacher, comparing student performance year-to-year for each.

In staff meetings Tuesday, he turned data over to principals for more review.

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“I’ll let them go back and analyze it,” Price said. Principals will then schedule meetings with math teachers to review teaching methods and perhaps develop new strategies.

“Everybody’s studying the gamut,” Price said, “but particularly math.”

The revised tests in lower grades are called MCT2. Secondary students took more specific subject-area tests in algebra, U.S. history, biology and English. Some eighth-graders also took the algebra test.

The state Department of Education concedes the tests set higher goals than previous tests, but are more in line with national norms. Tests were given in May to students in grade 3 and up. Scores were released two weeks ago, and later in the fall schools will be on a new scale that ranges from “failing” to “star.” The previous scale used levels 1 to 5. High schools here were Level 3.

On the new tests, Vicksburg’s public school students achieved lower averages than their peers statewide and, in some cases, neighboring school districts.

Statewide, for example, 68.4 percent of students who took the Algebra I test passed it, while 56.9 percent of Warren Central High School and 17.5 percent of Vicksburg High School students passed.

Students at South Delta High School in Rolling Fork posted a 29.6 percent pass rate, while at Port Gibson High School, 38 percent passed.

From his initial analysis, Price said he suspects part of the problem with the VHS scores may be that, somehow, eighth-graders from Vicksburg Junior High School who took the test were included in the totals. “We had so many more students take the algebra test in 2009 (at VHS) than before. I’m looking into why there were so many more this year.”

In 2009, 200 VHS students were reported as taking the algebra test, nearly twice last year’s 119. Almost twice as many passed last year, however — 32.8 percent.

On the elementary level, South Delta students consistently outperformed their Vicksburg and Port Gibson peers in both math and language arts.

Nearly one-fourth of South Delta’s fourth-graders scored at the advanced level in language, for example, and nearly 96 percent scored basic or above.

Vicksburg fourth-graders had 7.9 percent advanced and 80.9 percent basic and above. For Port Gibson the numbers were 5.1 percent advanced, and 88.8 percent basic and above.

In math, 36.9 percent of South Delta’s fifth-graders achieved advanced, compared to 7.3 percent each of Vicksburg and Port Gibson fifth-graders.

South Delta had 94 percent of its fifth-graders scoring basic and above, compared to 76.9 percent of Vicksburg and 75.2 percent of Port Gibson students.

When scores were released Aug. 21, Price said he was more frustrated than disappointed with the scores. Administrators across the state have complained about how frequently the state changes its expectations of what students should know.

Price has said he will continue to emphasize weekly benchmark testing to keep students on-track for learning what they must before the next round of tests toward the end of the year.

Schools will also continue to target failing and struggling students with intercession periods after each nine-week term. The first intercession period is scheduled for Oct. 12-16.

Contact Pamela Hitchins at

Test scores

Vicksburg Warren, South Delta (Rolling Fork), Claiborne County and statewide, percentage of students with passing scores:

Algebra I

• Vicksburg HS           17.5 percent

• South Delta HS         29.6

• Port Gibson HS         38.0

• Warren Central HS    56.9

• Statewide average     68.4

U.S. History

• VHS          95.5

• WCHS       95.8

• SDHS        97.1

• PGHS        88.1

• Statewide   97.4


• VHS            73.6

• WCHS         81.7

• SDHS          71.4

• PGHS          64.0

• Statewide     88.4


• VHS             56.3

• WCHS          61.2

• SDHS           51.3

• PGHS           38.9

• Statewide      65.0