Majority of NASD students improve state test scoresPublished 12:01am Saturday, September 8, 2012
NATCHEZ — The fourth-grade students in Natchez-Adams School District last year knew their arithmetic and have the scores to prove it.
The percentage of Natchez fourth-grade students scoring basic or above on the math portion of the required Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 last year was higher than the statewide average.
Before the district reorganized all the elementary schools this year, fourth-grade students were housed at McLaurin Elementary School.
“It’s an awesome feeling when there’s growth because that’s what we’re looking for when we’re teaching our children,” McLaurin Principal Alice Morrison said. “We still have a long way to go, but it’s a good feeling to know we’re on the right path.”
The MCT2 is given to students in grades three through eight in language arts and mathematics.
Fifth- and eighth-grade students were also tested in science.
All Natchez-Adams school students, except those in seventh grade, scored higher on the MCT2 this year compared to how students in the same grade scored the previous year.
Natchez-Adams fifth-grade students scored higher on the science test compared to the previous year’s fifth graders, but eighth-grade students scored lower.
In fourth grade, 91.7 percent of students scored basic or above in math, which is up 5.7 percentage points from the previous year’s fourth-grade students.
Statewide data showed 89 percent of fourth-grade students scored basic or above in math.
Students are scored as either minimal, basic, proficient or advanced.
Morrison said she was proud of her students for scoring higher than students across the state, but also said she still has higher expectations for them.
“We don’t want to put them in a box and have them compete with just students in the state because we want them to compete nationally and globally,” Morrison said. “We want to go from good to great.”
Other big gains from the test administered in the spring occurred at Morgantown Middle School, which housed fifth and sixth grade students and was called Morgantown Elementary before the reorganization.
In fifth grade, 80.4 percent of students scored basic or above in math, which is up 9.4 percentage points from the previous year’s fifth-grade scores.
In sixth grade, 85.5 percent of students scored basic or above in language arts, which is up 5.5 percentage points from the previous year’s sixth-grade scores.
Overall, students in Natchez-Adams schools performed better than they did the previous year in 13 of 17 categories on the 2011-2012 state tests.
But even with those gains, all the scores — except the fourth-grade math — were below state averages in all categories, something Superintendent Frederick Hill said needs to be corrected.
“We’ve improved in some areas along the way, but we still have a lot of improvements to make,” Hill said. “What we don’t want to see as a district is that we’re going backward with our students.
“We have the teachers and students to move forward, we just have to get it done.”
In seventh grade, 68.8 percent of students scored basic or above in language arts, which is down 12.2 percentage points from the same scores the previous year.
High school students are assessed with the Subject Area Testing Program on four content areas — Algebra I, Biology I, English II (both multiple choice and writing assessments) and U.S. history. Students must earn a passing score on each test to be eligible for graduation.
Natchez High School students scored higher on the Algebra I and Biology I test compared to last year, but scored lower on the English II assessment. The results for the U.S. history are not available because the test was new this year.
Both Hill and Morrison said one of the keys to scoring high on state tests is to ensure the curriculum is being delivered to the students the same way it appears on the state test.
“We spent a great deal of time dissecting all the questions on our practice test and realized that it was being asked differently than we were teaching the material,” Morrison said. “When you analyze the data and couple that with parents, teachers and students willing to improve — we have nowhere to go but up.”
In order to dissect and examine each portion of the district’s curriculum, the NASD board of trustees approved at its last meeting to contract Phi Delta Kappa International to perform a comprehensive curriculum audit.
“If our curriculum does not match what’s being tested, than the students are going to struggle,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, if your curriculum is lacking, the scores will reflect that.
“We just have to have the right mindset and make sure our curriculum matches what’s being tested.”
A detailed report will show and analyze the district’s programs and policies, diagnose strengths and weaknesses and recommend concrete courses of action to improve and advance quality in the educational organization, according to a letter from Phi Delta Kappa International.
Once the curriculum is inline with the state practice tests, Hill said he will use the quality of distribution index rating, which reflects the academic achievement of all students in the district, to evaluate the district’s growth.
A QDI score is represented on a scale of zero to 300, with higher numbers showing a better rating.
NASD received a 124 QDI rating for this year’s test scores and Hill said he is setting a goal of reaching a 166 QDI rating for next year.
“If we can make that jump, we’ll be categorized as a high performing district,” Hill said. “I’ve seen schools and districts do it in one year, so it’s possible.
This year, the accountability model will use grades of “A” through “F” to rate schools.
The accountability model for the district and each school that correspond with this year’s tests will be released Friday.