68% of district’s students pass new U.S. History test

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Vicksburg Warren School District’s 2011-12 scores from a revised U.S. History Subject Area Test were lower than the state’s average, but do not affect the district’s C rating.

Across the state, 72 percent of students passed the test, while 68 percent passed in the Vicksburg Warren School District. Students must score basic, proficient or advanced to pass.

The 2011-12 U.S. History SAT did not count toward school districts’ ratings because it was the first year students were tested with a more rigorous version. The 2012-13 U.S. History test, however, will count toward school districts’ report card ratings.

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Traditionally, juniors will take the U.S. History SAT at the end of their junior year. If a student fails the SAT, he or she will be required to retake the test after his or her senior year in order to graduate. Students must pass the U.S. History SAT to graduate.

Students must also receive four full history credits to graduate including one world history credit, one U.S. history credit and half credits in geography, U.S. government, economics and Mississippi studies.

In 2010, 93 percent of Mississippi students passed the U.S. History SAT while 85 percent of VWSD students passed.

The school district must show continual progress each year to retain its C rating.

VWSD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford said she is pleased with the results.

“I always expect our scores to continue closing the gap with the state average,” Swinford said. “At the same time, we knew they wouldn’t be counting. Our expectation is that we continue closing that gap. The state scores were stagnant for two years in a row where we have shown growth.”

Of 432 students in the district who took the test, 137 registered a Minimal Understanding of the material. That would put 32 percent of VWSD students in the Failing category, 4 percent higher than the state average.

Scoring Basic were 87 VWSD students, or 20 percent, while the state had 19 percent; Proficient, 167 students, or 38 percent, vs, 39 percent across the state; Advanced, 45 students, or 10 percent, compared with 14 percent statewide.

In the Claiborne County School District, fewer than half the students taking the test are considered passing with 82 of the 141 taking the test showing a minimal understanding. That puts 58 percent of students in Claiborne County schools in the Failing category. Just one student scored Advanced while 30 were Proficient and 28 were Basic.

In the South Delta School District, 62 students took the test with 45 passing, or 73 percent passing. Of those, 17 students, or 27 percent, scored Minimal on the test; five scored Advanced; 23 scored Proficient; and 17 demonstrated a Basic Understanding of the material.

Karla McHan, who taught U.S. history at Warren Central High School last year, currently serves as the lead teacher handling curriculum and instruction at the school.

“We expected the drop,” McHan said. “I don’t want to say we’re happy with the scores, but I don’t think you’re ever content with your scores.”

Swinford said that with a more rigorous testing, the district will have to respond with an equal amount of work.

“The test is evolving toward a higher critical level, with more critical thinking required,” Swinford said. “Everyone is trying to test following the same critical-thinking patterns. If all the teachers are building tests that require the kids to think critically, it becomes more of a habit for the kids.”

McHan agreed, saying she has seen the policies reflected at the school.

“The questioning style in the classroom, the critical writing in each class, we’re doing that across the board,” McHan said.

VSWD last year received a C, or Successful, rating in Mississippi’s retooled school district rating system. In 2008 and 2009, VWSD was rated At Risk of Failing, the equivalent of an F in the new rating system.

VWSD’s graduation rate for 2011 was 56.7 percent.

After scoring a C last year, the Claiborne County School District received an F rating. South Delta, however, rose from a D rating in 2011 to a B this year.

Clinton, Enterprise and Pass Christian were the only A-rated districts this year and 47 were rated B. VWSD is among 41 districts that scored a C while 57 districts were rated either D or F.

Private and parochial schools are not rated by the same testing standards.