Schools target specifics to boost scores

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

VIDALIA &8212; The key to success in school performance has been and will be focusing in on the specifics, Concordia Parish school principals say.

For the three schools already ranked high on the School Performance Score chart, it&8217;s time to target the students scoring proficient and move them up a rank to advanced, they said.

&8220;We&8217;ve got to do a better job in the advanced group of kids to offset the ones that don&8217;t get satisfactory,&8221; Vidalia High School Principal Rick Brown said.

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VHS, Monterey High School and Ridgecrest Elementary all have SPS numbers over 100. The goal set by the state is 120 by 2014.

Monterey was the only parish school to meet its expected growth target based on last year&8217;s test scores and attendance. The state uses the current academic standing of each school to calculate a growth target for the next year. Every school in the state is supposed to improve each year.

VHS implemented the high school redesign program this year, something Brown said he hopes will increase the academic rigor of his school and boost academic performance.

VHS students now spend more time in each class period and have a six-period day, instead of a seven-period day.

Attendance, part of the formula, is a problem at all the schools, principals said. At VHS a new administrative assistant spends time each day calling parents of students not in school.

&8220;That&8217;s a major worry of mine,&8221; Brown said. &8220;It&8217;s hard to get a lot of parents on the phone or helping out with absences.&8221;

Monterey school does pretty well with attendance, Principal Neeva Sibley said, but it&8217;s always a concern.

Monterey&8217;s &8220;exemplary academic growth&8221; label this year means the hard work must continue next year, Sibley said.

&8220;We are going to keep on doing what we&8217;ve been doing and do it better,&8221; she said. &8220;The faculty works hard here. I&8217;d put this faculty against anybody in the state.&8221;

Sibley attributes the success last year to daily emphasis on the tested material. Starting in January the school took five to 10 minutes of every class to review testable material.

They also taught students test taking skills and told them what to look for on the annual LEAP and Iowa tests.

Students with areas of weakness were pulled for extra tutorial work on a one-on-one basis.

This year the focus will remain the same, but grow to include students at the higher levels in attempts to push them even higher.

Vidalia Lower Elementary, which actually dropped a small amount in growth points, has an SPS of 95.8.

The key to improving that number is improving math scores, Principal Doris Polk said.

VLES started using a new math textbook this year and with it comes new programs including last Monday night&8217;s family math night.

The school is preparing to launch an online math program that lets parents access the textbook on the Internet and review skills with their children.

Vidalia Lower is also in its second year of the Reading First program, something that&8217;s in place in the lower grades of every parish school.

Math is a weakness at Vidalia Junior High too, Principal Paul Nelson said, but there&8217;s a plan in place to fix that.

VJHS places students in math classes based on their mastery of the subject. Students excelling can be challenged and those that need extra help can get it, Nelson said.

The school also has to focus on minority and special education groups of students, neither of which tested very well last year, Nelson said.

The growth VJHS did show &8212; &8220;minimal academic growth&8221; &8212; is partially attributed to last year&8217;s mock testing, Nelson said.

&8220;We did a lot of stuff last spring to get kids into the test taking mode,&8221; he said.

For several weeks students could come in at night and take practice LEAP tests, which were graded and reviewed by teachers in the same setting.

Parents could also come in at night with their children and work through a series of online tests and tutoring programs.

Annual testing is in the spring, early March. Several factors will be different this year, including the implementation of the new iLEAP test, a combination of the Iowa and LEAP tests. The influx of evacuee students from the two hurricanes will also affect on overall academic performance, principals said.