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Action plan: County schools respond to poor test results


Bonnie Coblentz



County school officials discussed their preparations for the 2010 state testing in a business meeting Monday night at East Oktibbeha County Elementary School. 


All board members were present for the meeting where the board handled mostly matters of routine business. However, Superintendent James Covington told the board that they are required to attend some special sessions because of the district''s poor performance in the last round of testing. 


Board president Curtis Snell and Covington "had to attend a mandatory meeting because we have a couple of schools that are failing," Covington said. 


All the board members will have to do the follow-up training, and a member of the Mississippi Department of Education attended Monday night''s meeting as a guest. 


Jerome Smith, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said test data from last year shows the district very strong in some areas, but other areas need work. The Oktibbeha County School District is labeled "at risk of failing" by the MDE, based on results of the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2, taken by students in grades three through eight each May. Students in high school take tests in the state Subject Area Testing Program.  


Smith said the district identified gaps between the average performance of students in the state and the performance of district students. 


"We have developed action plans to target these gaps," Smith said. 


Oktibbeha County students are taking practice tests four times this year in preparation for the late spring state tests, he reported. The first round was given in October once students had settled into routines, and this was treated as a pre-test. The second test was given before Christmas, and the district completed the third round last week. 


"We''ll have a better idea where we are after this test," Smith said, noting there have been some significant variations in student performance between the practice tests taken so far. Teachers are conducting individual interviews to determine why some students performed better on an earlier test than they did on a later test. 


"Our challenge is to find some ways to motivate them on test day," he said. 


The district also brought in consultants to make sure teachers are using best practices in the classrooms, students are being exposed to the sample test questions and principals are observing the classrooms each week to monitor progress, Covington added. 


Late in the meeting, Covington gave an update on the status of their new central office building. The former New Process Cleaners building on Main Street was demolished over the weekend, and the county Board of Supervisors has accepted bids on construction the new building in its place, he reported. 


Covington said the supervisors plan to award the bid at their next business meeting. There has not been a time frame announced for when the county school district will have a new facility in which to operate. 


The board went into closed session to handled personnel matters before adjourning until their next planned board meeting March 1. 





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