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Reports examines strengths, weakness of county schools


Bonnie Coblentz



West Oktibbeha County Elementary and High schools both have a lack of rigor in their instruction and assessments, according to an evaluation by the Mississippi Department of Education. 


At Monday''s meeting, Laura Jones of the MDE Office of School Improvement presented the evaluation report for the two schools. 


"We were here in the district because Oktibbeha County has two schools identified as failing based on (the Quality Distribution Index)," Jones said. 


If these underperforming schools do not improve and are classified as failing for three consecutive years, they will be eliminated and a new school started in their place. Before that happens, the superintendent and board''s travel will be severely limited, among other repercussions. 


Jones said the elementary school''s major strengths include a well-structured instructional day, low teacher-to-student ratio, and the materials, technology and administrative support to be successful. 


However, major challenges are a high teacher turnover rate, with seven of the 15 certified teachers on staff new to the school and five in their first year of teaching. The lack of rigor was noted, with much instruction and assessments being given on level 1 of 4 of the depth-of-knowledge rankings. State tests assess at levels 1-3. 


"Classroom instruction could not be classified as rigorous, challenging or thought provoking," the report states. 


A third challenge was the limited use of the teacher support teams and the three-tiered intervention model known as Response to Intervention. 


The MDE team said the high school had a clean and attractive physical environment that is conducive to learning and a student-to-teacher ratio of 10:1. Student transitions were smooth and orderly, and there was mentoring and positive professional relationships among staff. 


Jones said major challenges for the high schools are limited up-to-date textbooks, limited use of technology in classrooms despite its availability, and poor use of state test results with no evidence this data was used to revise instructional units. A major area in need of improvement was limited rigor in classroom instruction and assessments. 


Jones identified several other specific areas of challenge or strengths: 


  • Elementary teachers need more training in how to analyze tests scores and topics specific to their grade level; 


  • Elementary inclusion teachers assisted all students in the classrooms in which they worked, a positive for the school; 


  • Work needs to be done to better familiarize teachers with safety issues and emergency procedures at the elementary school; 


  • High school teachers have limited guidance from the principal in the development of the curriculum; 


  • There were complaints about unequal treatment of teachers; 


  • A positive was that all teachers, regardless of subject matter, understood the need to reinforce mastery of content on state-tested areas; 


  • There was limited individualized instruction given at the high school; and 


  • High school students arrived on time for class, a big positive. 


    Results from this spring''s Mississippi Curriculum Tests were given to school districts on Monday, but are withheld from the public until Aug. 20. The schools will be rated for the 2010-2011 year based on their performance on state testing in the 2009-2010 year. 


    There was no action for the board to take related to this report.




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