Three schools drop accountability levels

Published 12:08 am Friday, September 14, 2007

NATCHEZ — Only one Natchez public school maintained its accountability level given by the state this year; the others dropped one level.

The Natchez-Adams School District had a press conference Thursday to release state and federal accountability information.

McLaurin Elementary retained its Level 3 status, while Morgantown Elementary, Robert Lewis Middle and Natchez High schools dropped from a Level 3 to a Level 2.

Email newsletter signup

The schools are ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the best.

The levels are based on test scores from last year’s state achievement tests.

A Level 3 school is considered “successful.” Level 2 schools are “under-performing.”

West and Frazier primary schools do not receive labels.

The district also released federal No Child Left Behind growth measurements and improvement levels.

Morgantown failed to meet its expected yearly progress, and fell into school improvement year one.

Schools in school improvement must map out a plan for improvement and submit it to the state.

RLMS, which has been in school improvement for three years, will remain an improvement-level school and must begin a restructuring plan.

McLaurin met its expected growth target in both reading and math, but no other school met it in both categories.

Morgantown and RLMS failed to meet the growth targets in reading or math; Natchez High made the target in math, but not in reading.

Reading scores across the board were lower than hoped for, district Curriculum and Instruction Director Karen Tutor said.

“We do a really good job of teaching reading,” Tutor said. “In the lower grades in particular we do a good job. But for reading scores to continue to improve as children move up through the grades we’ve got to get the vocabulary.”

Tutor said low literacy rates in the area, a high number of students below the poverty level and a lack of emphasis on reading at home contribute to the low scores.

Reading scores are better in the lower grades — McLaurin — because the focus at first it teaching students how to read. Then in the higher grade levels, reading becomes a requirement for any other learning, Tutor said. Students are no longer learning how to read, they are reading to learn, she said.

“The research is clear that we have to do more work on vocabulary at a young age so they are ready to learn,” she said. “We have to make sure across the board our kids are coming to us with phonemic awareness skills.”

Morgantown Elementary Principal Fred Marsalis said his school had already implemented plans to boost the scores for next year.

“We are going back and really looking at the things we really have to harp on this year,” he said. “We are meeting daily with teachers and trying to target those areas.”

Students at Morgantown scored either very high on the Mississippi Curriculum Test or very low, Marsalis said; there was no middle ground.

“We have to bridge the gap and reading is a target,” he said.

Morgantown is working to establish a reading library in each classroom as well as continuing to use the Accelerated Reader program.

At the top end of the grade scale, Natchez High Principal James Loftin said he felt certain the right programs were in place, they just need time to grow.

Natchez High and RLMS began the Mississippi Scholars program last year, encouraging students in eighth and ninth grades to begin a more rigorous coursework. Those who complete the program graduate with special distinction and carry the title on their transcripts.

“What we are doing in all subject areas is making sure that reading is done across the curriculum and not just in language arts,” Loftin said.

Superintendent Anthony Morris said that though the scores aren’t what was hoped for, the district employees and students are working hard toward improvement.

“We are nowhere near where we’d like to be,” he said. “It’s not a time for finger pointing. It’s a time for the entire community to come together and each one of us say what we can I do to improve things for the school system.”