Elementary test scores rise; high schools’ fall

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Math and language scores for Vicksburg Warren School District’s elementary students increased again last year, but high school scores dipped slightly, according to test scores released today by the Mississippi Department of Education.

“We are thrilled with our test scores,” said VWSD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford. “That’s a lot of hard work on the parts of our students, teachers and staff.”

Scores on the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition, increased across the board, as did the percentage of students who scored Proficient or Advanced. Eighth-grade language arts took the biggest leap with a 10 percent increase in students who scored Basic or above.

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The MCT2 is given to students in grades three through eight in language arts and mathematics. High school students are assessed with Subject Area Testing Program in algebra I, biology I, English II and U.S. history.

In Warren County’s high schools, the passing rate dropped by nearly 10 percent in algebra and less than half of a percent in English since 2011.

History results were not released today by the state because students took a new version of the test, MDE officials said.

In biology, 66.5 percent of students passed, but test results were not released by the state last year.

Swinford announced earlier this month that, based on composite test scores, the district would receive a ranking of Successful. Two years ago, the district was ranked At Risk of Failing, and last year it moved up one rating to Academic Watch.

The gains are big, Swinford said, but the school district aims to be in the top rating tier.

“Don’t stop believing in Vicksburg Warren School District,” she said. “We can still achieve so much.”

Since 2009, the state education department has ranked schools, based on a numerical score calculated from test results plus incremental improvement year-to-year, with seven descriptors: Star, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At Risk of Failing and Failing.

This year the department will use the five common letter grades, A through F. VWSD’s composite score places it in the former Successful range and earns a C letter grade.

Programs such as Scholastic Academy and the district’s Reading Initiative will continue and expand in an effort to increase student performance, Swinford said.

“When the teachers are more used to the initiatives … we are going to continue to see test scores boom for all kids,” she said.

The school district is also preparing to implement common core standards, which will make testing and evaluation more rigorous, Swinford said. Common core is being put in place this year in kindergarten through fifth grade and will be expanded to the junior highs and high schools in the coming years.

“It’s going to take the whole community working together because it’s going to be a big change,” she said.

Scores could suffer once the more stringent testing is in place in a few years.

“I’m hoping we don’t dip as we transition,” she said.