With Thursday’s release of the latest round of test scores, the message for Greenwood area public schools remains largely the same.
But for a handful of exceptions, students in Leflore and Carroll counties trail the state average in math, English and language arts.
With the July 1 consolidation of the Greenwood and Leflore County school districts, this will be the last time that results will be reported separately for the two districts. Still, how the individual districts fared last year on the state-mandated tests will impact the accountability grade of the new Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District.
Under the rules, when the new A-to-F grades are assigned in October, grades will be calculated separately for the former Greenwood and Leflore County districts. The consolidated district will be assigned the higher of the two for the 2019-20 school year.
Last year, Leflore County was rated a C, while Greenwood received a D.
The test results, provided by the Mississippi Department of Education, are from last spring’s Mississippi Academic Assessment Program. It’s the fourth time the state has given those tests to students in grades 3-8 and high school. There are five levels of achievement on the computerized tests: minimal, basic, passing, proficient and advanced.
Dr. Mary Brown, superintendent of the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District, said school officials have not been able to analyze the voluminous data enough to tell what accountability grades might be this year. Still, looking at the numbers, it appears unlikely that the consolidated district will inherit anything higher than a D.
“When we look at the proficiency levels across both districts, we have quite a bit of work to do,” Brown said.
The scores in the third and fourth grades were especially troubling.
Based on the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced, Leflore County’s third graders ranked 138th out of 141 districts and special schools on both the math test and the English/language arts test, which assesses reading and writing. In English/language arts, 15.1% scored at the top two levels and just 13% in math, compared to state averages of around 50%.
Fourth grade in the former county district was almost as bad, ranking 132nd out of 140 in math and 138th out of 141 in English/language arts.
Greenwood students in those early grades came out only modestly better in English/language arts, ranking 127th in third grade with 24.5% proficient or advanced and 136th in fourth grade with 18.1% proficient or advanced.
“We’re still analyzing our data,” Brown said, “but we’re working to come up with a plan to address the deficiencies in third grade.”
On a brighter note was the success in seventh grade math, with Amanda Elzy Junior High again leading the way. The school had 54.1% of its students scoring proficient or advanced, bettering the state average of 51.1%.
The math performance of last year’s seventh graders, 73.9% of whom scored proficient or advanced, helped propel the school to an A rating, a meteoric jump from its F rating in 2017. A year later, however, most of those same students did markedly worse as eighth graders, with only 15.5% reaching the top two levels in math.
Carroll County, which is presently rated a D district, showed mixed results as well. In third-grade English/language arts, for example, the district ranked in the middle of the pack, with 40.4% of students proficient or advanced. In the same subject area for fourth grade, however, the district fell to 129th out of 141 with 23% scoring at the top two levels.
Superintendent Billy Joe Ferguson was out of town at a meeting Thursday and unavailable for comment.
Statewide, however, Mississippi education officials sounded pleased with the results.
The state’s students overall fared better on the tests than the year before, although gains in math continued to outstrip gains in English and language arts.
State Superintendent Carey Wright praised the trends as “part of our state’s success story.”
In English/language arts, 42% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels. That’s up from 40% last year. Achievement jumped more in math, with 47% of students scoring proficient or higher, compared to 44% last year.
The state has set a goal of 70% proficiency for all students by 2025. The gains that students posted last year are not on pace to meet those goals in either English/language arts or math.
Mary Brown, after being hired in February as the superintendent of the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District, left her position as director of curriculum and instruction for the city district. Asked Thursday whether her departure from a job heavily involved in state testing might have negatively impacted how the city’s students performed in the spring, Brown said she did not believe so.
“There was someone in place to carry out those duties who’s very knowledgeable of the testing process,” she said.
The first-time superintendent said she is focused on getting the academic performance up in the newly merged district.
“We’re planning and doing all we can to ensure that our student achievement improves across the district,” she said.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.