Intercession week begins Monday in public schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 9, 2009

The first intercession week of the year begins Monday for Vicksburg Warren public school students and features something new.

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At least 567 students in grades 3 through 6 are expected to attend the classes that provide extra help for students who have not mastered benchmarks by the end of each nine-week period. Focus areas are language arts and math.

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New this year, students who have mastered required skills were offered a chance to sign up for enrichment courses and activities. Each elementary and intermediate school will hold its own program, and offerings range from caring for farm animals to Shakespeare and the Renaissance.

“We had a great response,” said Ray Hume, principal at Sherman Avenue, which is offering a course called “Hello World,” featuring the art, music and customs of five continents. “We probably could have had three times the number of students if we had more space.”

Intercession attendance is not mandatory under the schedule first used last academic year. Students not enrolled in the remediation or enrichment courses will be out for five days, returning to class Oct. 19.

First-term records show 1,367 students have not met benchmarks for this point in the school year, Superintendent Dr. James Price said Thursday. Notices had gone home either in weekly folders or through the mail, he said, but parents of more than half of the students had not yet signed their children up for intercession.

Last year’s first intercession week saw 653 students attend at least the first day’s classes. The idea is to help students who fall behind catch up throughout the year, rather than having to wait for summer school.

Price said he was not aware of any other school districts in Mississippi that are using a similar plan.

Judging the success of the intercession model by looking at last year’s experience has proved difficult to impossible, he said. One of the problems administrators discovered was a disparity between how students performed on benchmark tests and their report card grades.

Why the disparity? “That’s the question we’re all asking,” said Price. “If he’s an A and B student and he fails the benchmarks, either the teacher didn’t teach the benchmark skills or there is grade inflation going on.”

New policies have been implemented. Perhaps most noteworthy, parents are no longer allowed to see their child’s benchmark tests. Those weekly tests, whose development Price has overseen, have been secured in order to provide a more statistically reliable “snapshot” of a child’s progress at a specific point in time.

“They are a diagnostic and administrative tool,” Price said, and teachers don’t see them either. “We’re taking out the human element and the opportunity for error,” in assessing a student’s progress and preparation for MCT2 tests —  state standardized tests administered in the spring that measure student performance and determine school ratings.

This year, post-intercession tests as well as weekly benchmark testing have been created at the district level, and will be electronically transmitted, scored and then withdrawn, Price said.

“It depends on everyone doing the same thing at the same time,” he said. “Then we’ll get a better reading of whether the students got it or didn’t get it.”

If a parent is concerned about his child’s benchmark scores not measuring up to his grades, the parent “should go straight to the teacher” to talk about it, Price said.

“We’re changing and adapting all the time to try to make it do what it needs to do,” Price said. “It’s a work in progress — and it needs to be.”


Contact Pamela Hitchins at

Intercession week at a glance

For students in grades 3 through 6:

• Classes for students needing extra help to master benchmark skills will be held at Sherman Avenue for students in the north zone and at Dana Road for students in the south zone.

• Enrichment courses and activities have also been scheduled at all elementary and intermediate schools for students who have mastered benchmarks. Signups were required ahead of time, as enrollments are limited and a first-come, first-serve policy is in effect.

• Both intercession and enrichment courses will be held from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

• Buses will run to and from Sherman Avenue and Dana Road schools; parents must provide transportation to the other schools.

For junior high students:

• Both Vicksburg Junior High and Warren Jun-ior High will focus primarily on math, but language arts classes will also be offered.

• Transportation is provided.

Enrichment courses:

• Beechwood — Knitting and sign language

• Bovina — Shakespeare and the Renaissance

• Bowmar — “The Mighty Mississippi” and “Celebrate Vicksburg”

• Dana Road — Volleyball and basketball

• Redwood — Frogs

• Sherman Avenue — “Hello World” journey through five continents

• South Park — Golf and tennis.

• Warren Central Intermediate — Creative arts (photography, scrapbooking and sewing), basketball and golf.

• Warrenton — Farm animals and care.

• Vicksburg Intermediate — Art and music.

• Vicksburg Junior High School — The novel.

For high school students:

• Vicksburg High and Warren Central High will help students prepare for the Subject Area Tests. Certain courses might not be held every day. Information can be obtained by calling the schools. Students must provide their own transportation.

Source: Vicksburg Warren Public Schools Superintendent’s office.