The Mississippi Department of Education recently released results from Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) assessments administered during the spring semester for math and English Language Arts for grades three through eight, fifth- and eighth-grade science, Biology I and U.S. history.

While superintendents from each school district serving Monroe County students identified strengths and weaknesses through the results, each came away with bragging rights to some regard.

Amory School District

For the Amory School District’s results, Amory High School had the state’s top score for the U.S. History assessment and the seventh highest cumulative result for science from the fifth- and eighth-grade science and Biology I tests, according to district superintendent Ken Byars.

“When I found out that we had the highest proficiency scores in the state, I was in disbelief,” said Amory High School history teacher Masha Laney. “They were so happy, so proud, so amazed that their hard work paid off. It’s like winning a state championship in U.S. history. One thing that I believe is very important is building relationships with my students. They want to make me proud. They work hard for me.”

Individually, fifth-grade science placed third in the state; eighth-grade science was #12, and Biology I ranked #20.

Math proficiency results from the ‘17-’18 school year assessments were 54.8 percent, and that figure increased to 61.9 percent for School Year 2018-2019.

In English Language Arts, the third grade placed in the top 10 percent; seventh grade was in the top eight percent while the fourth grade rounded out the top three, placing in the top 16 percent.

In math, fifth grade placed in the top seven percent, the eighth grade was in the top 11 percent while the fourth grade was in the top 13 percent.

“We did extremely well all the way around, but we can still grow,” Byars said.

He noted that English Language Arts scores are not increasing as much as other areas. That area, as well as stimulating the bottom quartile, remain objectives for achieving greater growth.

Byars continuously practices his own three R’s.

“We endeavor to keep our content rigorous and relevant while cultivating positive relationships with stakeholders,” Byars said. “If the school district does well, so does the community; if the community does well, so does the school district.”

Aberdeen School District

Results from this spring’s assessments indicated decreases in several areas compared to last year’s assessments for the Aberdeen School District.

“We didn’t have a great year, and one year is not going to define us. Sitting down with our principals and directors, we have a plan to fix this and we’ll wake up every day to make sure we’re serving the needs of the kids,” said Aberdeen School District Superintendent Jeff Clay.

He said Aberdeen Elementary School faced decreases in reading and math scores, and growth rates for proficiency in reading and math were similar to the previous year’s assessments. Belle-Shivers Middle School faced decreases in reading, math and fifth- and eighth-grade science scores.

For Aberdeen High School, Clay said there was a significant decrease in reading and a slight decrease in math. The proficiency growth for math, however, had an increase. U.S. history scores faced a decrease, and science scores remained the same as last year’s assessments. Clay said college- and career-readiness increased slightly, and acceleration slightly decreased.

Clay hopes programs in place requiring higher grades such as the middle-college program and Beta Clubs will encourage students.

“We hope the implementation of students going to ICC [through the high school’s middle-college program] will generate some excitement. We really want to expand that. If they can get a diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time, that would be great. We want to expand it to where hopefully some kids can take CTC [career-technical courses] at the Belden or Tupelo campus,” Clay said. “We thank you for your continued support, and the entire Aberdeen School District will wake up to improve on a daily basis.”

Monroe County School District

According to Monroe County Superintendent of Education Brian Jernigan, his district did well overall, with sixth-grade math scores placing among the top 10 districts in the state. He said there were five areas where the district scored 10 points above the state average.

“Our number one goal is to ensure that all teachers and administrators understand the state accountability model,” he said. “We’re doing individual student monitoring to help reach goals – individually, as a class and ultimately as a school and district.”

Jernigan said during the last four years’ performance in third-, fourth- and fifth-grade math has been consistently going up, as is fifth-grade English Language Arts.

“We’re growing these areas,” he said.

Jernigan identified challenges in Algebra I to maintain or increase proficiency.

“We want to see growth in every area. We’ve endeavoring to keep everybody moving up,” he said.

As a district, Jernigan is championing setting goals that are reasonable, measurable and achievable.

“If a student’s scores are within six points of the goal, the next level is achievable,” he said.

Nettleton School District

Nettleton School District Superintendent Tim Dickerson said the MAAP assessments showed areas school officials are proud of and areas for opportunities for improvements.

“We’ve got a lot of room to grow everywhere but we have the potential. We’re going to start working on some plans to show our students how to get a little better showing on the MAAP tests,” he said.

Dickerson was pleased with the Biology I and U.S. history results, adding history increased by several percentage points.

“Our proficiency ratings are not exactly where we want to be. It’s mostly in the 40s, and we think we can get more kids in that proficiency range,” he said.

He is working with principals to make that one of the district’s focal points.

Reviewing other data, he said Nettleton High School’s graduation rate has been holding steady in the lower 80 percent range, but Dickerson wants to see that number increase.

He also said there is an upward trend in college- and career-readiness thanks to trying new approaches at the high school that led to an increase of more than 10 percentage points.

“We’ve got some work to do in the lower grades as far as math. We’ve put some new math programs in this year and hope to put in stability there, and that will go through the high school,” Dickerson said.

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