During its first work session of the new year, members of the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School Board looked at data from the district’s fall semester report.

The data, which came from four districtwide assessments administered during the first half of the school year, provided a snapshot of where the district currently is in regard to proficiency and growth in academics, Dr. Kenneth Pulley, the district’s deputy superintendent, explained to the board Wednesday.

The data summary of the first semester raised concerns in the elementary and middle schools in  English and Language Arts (ELA).

Just 15% of all ELA students scored proficient on each benchmark assessment, and less than 40% of students met growth targets in the elementary schools, according to the report.

For middle schools, an exact percentage was not provided, but the report states that “proficiency and growth remain a concern in ELA.”

As far as high schools go, the report states that an average of 60% of all ELA students are meeting growth expectations.

In math, however, elementary schools are reported to be exceeding performances compared to their scores on last spring’s state tests.

In middle schools, an average of 43% of all math students have scored proficient on each benchmark assessment, while 63% of all students are consistently meeting growth targets in the subject.

For the high schools, the greatest concerns were in U.S. History and Biology I.

Pulley said that ideas are in place to help improve performance in these subject areas.

“For example, on the high school level, in order to increase efficiency, we work with principals to determine throughout that school day how can we increase the amount of time students are being exposed to that Biology and U.S. History material,” Pulley said.

He also said that the district has received a grant to improve participation in computer science by developing an after-school program for seventh through ninth grade students.

The program “will combine coding and then activities in order to introduce students into that field of computer science,” Pulley said.

The program will begin next school year and will be free to students who participate, he said.

In other business, Margaret Dean, the public information officer for the district, said she is working on putting together a newspaper for the school district, modeled after one published by the Grenada School District.

Dean hopes to produce the printed publication once a month and also make it available online. The newspaper will be given to all students to take home.

Dr. Mary Brown, superintendent for the district, said that the district is “trying to target (parents) not on Facebook.”

Dean said that the newspaper will include articles about the district generally as well as for the individual schools.

Dean said the plan is also to distribute the newspaper through drop-off locations, such as businesses, supermarkets, barber shops and school libraries.

Student absences were also discussed at the work session, and board member Dr. Kalanya Moore inquired if absences were linked to low test scores.

Brown said that the district was looking into that correlation and focusing specifically on the major subjects of issue, such as ELA and math.

Talece Hudson, chief of transportation and warehouse services, brought up that grants are being applied for to help with replacing school buses that are more than 15 years old.

The grants would cover $15,000 of the estimated $86,000 cost of a new bus.

The board  will also begin accepting public comments at its upcoming monthly meetings.

Public comments will be limited to three minutes per individual or group, and the first 10 people to sign in prior to the meeting will be eligible for comment.

In a statement given to the Commonwealth, the district said, “It is a time that the public may use to make the board aware of matters related to student achievement and school operations.”

• Contact Kerrigan Herret at 581-7233 or kherret@gwcommonwealth.com.

The original version of this article incorrectly reported the estimated cost of new school buses.

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