Natchez-Adams School District test scores show improvement

Published 12:06 am Friday, July 22, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Education consultant Carl Robinson demonstrates various math techniques to Robert Lewis Middle School teachers, during the teacher’s workshop at RLMS Thursday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams school children performed better than they did last year in 11 of 15 categories on the 2010-2011 state tests.

Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 and Subject Area Testing program scores were released today to the public.

The gains, though scores are still below state averages in every category, had district educators feeling on the right track to narrowing the gap, they said.

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The biggest gains occurred at Natchez High School within the Subject Area Testing Program, where scores improved across the board in U.S. history, Algebra I and English II.

Robert Lewis Middle School also saw significant gains in eighth-grade language arts and math.

McLaurin Elementary scores dropped in fourth-grade language arts and math, but the same areas are still better off from two years ago because of big leaps in 2009-2010.

Click here for detailed view of school scores

At Natchez High, 42 percent of the students scored proficient or above in English II, which is up 16 percentage points from last year’s scores.

In U.S. history, 54 percent of students scored proficient or above, which is up 13 percentage points from last year.

In Algebra I, 49 percent scored proficient or above, which is up two percentage points from last year.

Natchez High Principal Cleveland Moore said this year’s teachers used data from last year’s state tests to individualize their instruction and target weaknesses in the classroom.

Although Natchez High had big gains, the school’s scores are an average of 20 percentage points lower than state averages in subject area testing.

“We’re by far nowhere near where we want to be, but now at least we’re headed in a positive direction — and that’s upward,” Moore said.

High school biology scores will not be available until September. Because a new version of the test was used this year, the results will not factor into the 2010-2011 accountability model.

Eighth-grade language arts scores saw the biggest gain on the MCT2 with 36 percent scoring proficient or above, which is up 14 percentage points from last year.

In eighth grade, 49 percent of students scored proficient or above in math, which is up eight percentage points from last year.

Also at Robert Lewis, seventh graders gained three percentage points in language arts and four percentage points in math compared to last year.

Despite improvements, Robert Lewis scores are an average of 19 percentage points lower than state averages of the same grade.

“As long as we’re moving forward I feel good, but look, we have a long way to go,” Robert Lewis Principal Sekufele Lewanika said.

Lewanika said you can debate how fast the school can show growth, but it is encouraging to know the systems in place this past year showed gains.

Two of the three drops in 2010-2011 scores came in the fourth grade.

At McLaurin, 34 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or above in language arts, a drop of 11 percentage points from last year.

In fourth grade, 56 percent scored proficient or above in math, which is down eight percentage points from last year.

But those drops come on the heels of a 25-percent gain in math and a 12-percent gain in language arts by the fourth-grade students of 2009-2010. So despite the drop in scores, both fourth-grade areas are better off than they were two years ago, NASD Curriculum Director Charlotte Franklin said.

This year’s fourth-grade math scores are two percentage points below the state average — the closest any category in the district is to the state average.

In third grade, 31 percent scored proficient or above in language arts, which is up five percentage points from last year.

Other improvements included increases of two percentage points in fifth-grade language arts and a one-percentage point improvement in fifth-and sixth-grade math.

The only other drop was a one-percentage point drop in sixth-grade language arts. Third-grade math scores stayed the same.

Administrators said data and graphs could never capture the complexities involved in the educational journey of a child, but it can provide a roadmap.

“We are driven by the data,” Lewanika said.

Franklin said it is important to remember that comparing each grade’s scores from two different years compares one set of students to an entirely new set of students and may not track growth of a particular class.

Interim Superintendent Joyce Johnson said the district can use the data to plan accordingly for the 2011-2012 school year, particularly for professional development.

“(The data) will drive instruction and enhance student learning,” Johnson said.

Moore said since test scores can be broken down into individual profiles, data can be useful in a very tangible way.

Moore said he credits Natchez High’s improved scores to a concentrated school-wide effort to use data to dictate more individualized instruction.

“Teachers have really bought into looking at the data and adjusting instruction accordingly,” Moore said.

Franklin said while the school district recognizes how they stack up to the state average, they also know “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Morris Stanton said the data can provide a wealth of information to the district about where the district stands, but down to every student and subject area.

“(The data) is your GPS,” he said.

Moore said the teachers and students now have the opportunity to know where they stand when they walk in the door in August, as well as where they need to go.

New accountability labels have not yet been released. They will be announced to the public Aug. 29.

Based on the 2009-2010 scores, Natchez High, Robert Lewis and Morgantown Elementary School are currently considered “at risk of failing.” McLaurin is currently considered “successful.”