Planting seeds: District has high expectations for schoolsPublished 12:07am Friday, September 14, 2012
NATCHEZ — McLaurin Elementary saw, this week, the results of a seed that Principal Alice Morrison said was planted last year by both teachers and students.
The school received a “C,” or was labeled “successful,” for the 2011-2012 school year, according to unofficial state accountability results released this week.
McLaurin had previously been ranked “successful” in the 2009-2010 school year, but dropped one tier to “academic watch” last year.
“The work that we put in last year to dissect and analyze all the data and making the students aware of where they are and where they need to be helped us so much,” Morrison said. “We are by no means satisfied where we are because there are two more levels above that we can achieve.
“If we become satisfied, we become complacent, and we’re not going to become a star school by being complacent.”
The Natchez-Adams School District as a whole received an “F,” or “low performing” label.
While the district failed to get an upgrade in classification, two of the four schools showed improvement, and all schools scored better than they did two years ago.
“We have taken steps to make sure that we’re on a different path to show growth in our students,” Hill said. “That includes things like professional development for our principals and teachers to ensuring our curriculum goes beyond what’s expected on the test.
“If we deliver the information correctly in the classroom, the students will be able to perform when they take the test.”
This year, the state accountability model used grades of “A” through “F” to rate schools.
Last year, the accountability model used a seven-tier rating system that ranked Mississippi public schools in alignment with the rest of the nation.
The categories included star school, high performing, successful, academic watch, low performing, at risk of failing and failing.
The categories were included along with the letter grade this year for transition purposes.
The new accountability ratings leave two previous categories unaccounted for by switching from a seven-tier rating system to a five-tier system.
Though the Natchez school district’s rating of “low performing” would rank it third from the bottom in the previous accountability ratings, the new system puts the district at the lowest possible ranking category.
The rankings are based on two factors — test score performance and a growth target measuring the improvement students make on tests.
Test score performance is judged based on a formula called a Quality Distribution Index.
The QDI reflects the academic achievement of all students in the district and is represented on a scale of zero to 300, with higher numbers showing a better rating.
The district improved its QDI rating by two points, from a 122 in the 2010-2011 school year, to a 124 in the 2011-2012 school year.
“Our goal as a district is to increase our QDI to 166 next year,” Hill said. “If we can reach 166 QDI that jump will be so large that not only will we be a successful school district, but we’ll be a high performing district because our growth was so large.”
The biggest jump in QDI — 14 points — came from McLaurin Elementary. The school’s QDI increased to a 142 — up from last year’s 128 score.
“I credit that increase to the hard work that our teachers and students put in last year,” Morrison said. “The team I had (last year) previously planted a seed, and the team I have now has to continue to cultivate that seed in order for us to grow.
“We are focused on increasing student achievement to allow our students to compete globally.”
The other increase in QDI — 8 points — came from Morgantown Middle School, which increased to a 114 up from last year’s 106.
The QDI dropped this year at both Natchez High School and Robert Lewis Middle School.
The high school’s QDI dropped 14 points, down to a 124 from last year’s 138 score.
Robert Lewis’ QDI dropped only one point, down to a 124 from last year’s 125 score.
The QDI is calculated based on a formula that awards the district points for each student scoring basic, proficient or advanced on their state tests. More points are awarded for the number of students who score at higher levels.
The district and each school are also measured on growth benchmarks based on the state accountability results.
The district as a whole did not meet its growth benchmark.
Morgantown, Robert Lewis and Natchez High School also did not meet their growth benchmark provided by the state.
McLaurin met its growth benchmark.
“We can look at the things that are happening at McLaurin and implement those across the district to see similar, or better, results,” Hill said. “We’re working to launch Natchez-Adams School District to be an extraordinary school district.”