School officials to combat low test scores

August 22, 2009 10:48:00 PM

Neal Wagner -


Administrators in the Columbus Municipal School District this school year will be taking steps to combat below-average test scores, CMSD officials announced during a Saturday morning conference. 


Because recently released Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 and Subject Area Test Program results indicated the CMSD is testing behind state averages, administrators from every grade level shared plans to improve the scores over the next year. 


"I was horrified by the (MCT2) results," said Pamela Lenoir, principal of Stokes-Beard Elementary Magnet School. "My third-grade results showed the greatest deficit. But out of the 65 third graders at the school last year, over half were new to Stokes-Beard. 


"A lot of the new students we got were testing extremely below grade level," Lenoir added.  


An 11-month "success calendar" program implemented at Stokes-Beard and Sale elementary schools could work to combat the low test scores, Lenoir explained. 


Through the 11-month calendar, Sale and Stokes-Beard will hold two success academies during the year. One will be held on school days from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9, and the second will run from March 22 to April 1. 


The 18 success days will be used to "enrich" students who are performing at their grade level, and will be used to "remediate" students who have fallen behind, Lenoir explained.  


"The enrichment classes will all focus on science, and will increase achievement for students who are scoring at or above their grade level," Lenoir said. "Students who scored below their grade level will be assigned into different remediation classes based on their area of deficiency. 


"In those remediation classes, they will receive intense instruction in whichever area they have fallen behind," Lenoir added. 


Teachers and administrators at Lee Middle School will be working this year to improve their understanding of the MCT2 and SATP test formats, said LMS Principal Cindy Wamble. 


"We are just trying to promote a mindset with the teachers of knowing what they need to teach in order to help students perform well on the test," Wamble said. "There is a school-wide focus on literature. Even on the math sections of the test, they have to read. 


"Two-thirds of the test is language arts and reading, so anything we can do to promote that is great," Wamble added. "We are continuing to improve our school climate. We have not had a single discipline problem during these first few weeks of school." 


Data-driven teaching decisions will be the driving force this year at Columbus High School, according to CHS Principal Craig Shannon. 


"We are asking ourselves ''how are our lesson plans based on the data we have?''" Shannon said. "We want all of our decisions to be data-driven, not just based on a feel-good theory. 


"We have different segments of students, and we want to make sure we are teaching to each level, not just the middle group," Shannon added. "The major challenge we are facing is making students aware of the importance of education, and I think we are making great headway with that this year."