Forest Municipal Schools receive D rating, Scott County receives C rating

By JILL WARE,

The Mississippi Statewide Accountability System Report that includes both the Forest Municipal School District and the Scott County School District was released last week.

The Mississippi Department of Education released letter grades for schools and districts based on Mississippi’s A-F letter grading scale. This grading scale is a scoring system which uses statistical algorithms to calculate school and district performance for the prior school year. The mathematical results assign academic ratings that are expected to reflect the performance of school communities across our state. However, due to years of test company changes and continuous scoring and rating changes, some officals question whether these letter grades are capable of capturing the actual trend of student growth and achievement accurately.
The Forest Municipal School District received a grade of D and The Scott County School District received a grade of C.
The Scott County Times sat down with Dr. Joseph White, Superintendent of Forest Municipal School District, along with Tammy Bell, FMSD Federal Programs and Curriculum Director to get their take on this topic.
“The 2016-17 D label was a huge disappointment to the hard-working team of educators and students in the district,” White said. “One of the greatest challenges unique to Forest is the fluctuating enrollment of unaccompanied youth, especially since the summer of 2012, (which is this year’s graduation cohort). This subgroup of students significantly impacts graduation rates and achievement scores and causes the actual improvements to be overlooked.
“Another challenge for all Mississippi schools is what is referred to as the ‘moving target’ we are expected to hit. With testing companies and rating labels changing yearly, it is very difficult to earn a score that accurately reflects the real growth of our students. However, emphasis is placed on what a great privilege and challenge it is to be a part of the team that daily molds and shapes the future of our community, state, nation, and world.”
Forest High School earnined a “B” rating, per the former MDE cut scores. Forest High School Principal, Kim Shoemaker, credits her dedicated staff and talented students for this accomplishment. “Our team constantly works to increase the graduation rate,” Shoemaker said. “This is a daily task that we take very seriously. Also, we will continue to focus on boosting ACT and acceleration scores to ensure that F.H.S. graduates are prepared for college and career success.”
Hawkins Middle School, Principal Marcus Holbert said, “I am not overly concerned with last year’s “D” rating. Assistant Principal, Reagan Shoemaker and I both know that our staff and students are capable of so much more. Our immediate goals are to improve the climate and culture at H.M.S. and support our teachers, students, and families. By staying committed to these goals, the community of Forest will see the “real” potential of our school.”
Forest Elementary earned 327 points which gave the school the letter grade of D missing a C by only one point. If F.E.S. had of earned 328 points, they would have been given the letter grade of C. Forest Elementary School Principal, Stacy Crosby, was extremely disappointed with the rating. “That score does not show that we had more 3rd graders pass the initial Reading Gate (a pass/fail reading test) last year than ever! Or, that we had a big gain in overall math proficiency. At the elementary level, the biggest factor in our rating is (academic) growth, and since the cut scores changed on us again this year, the public does not actually see how much our students grew and how hard my team worked. And, I hate that for them,” Crosby said.
Comments from Superintendent White and Bell reveal a focused and consistent plan to continue moving the Forest Municipal School District forward. Leadership Meetings are held each and every month with school level teams to implement and maintain District initiatives.  “Although this year’s label is not acceptable, the four-year trend results clearly show a consistent improvement in the performance of Forest students,” Bell said. “We are excited about that and will continue to build on our Success Model that is in place.”
The Scott County Times also met with Dr. Tony McGee, Superintendent of the Scott County School District, along with John-Mark Cain, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent.
“Most of the year held steady,” McGee said, “Sebastopol will be a C after this year, and Scott Central maintained a C. The two attendance centers fight a different challenge because those schools are lumped together, 3rd grade through high school, so we know that without that stand-alone score sometimes it’s harder to reach that highest level. Logistically, each of the buildings might be viewed as being separate; however, statistically they are counted as a single building, a unit of one.”
Dr. McGee added, “As a District, all four school zones: Morton, Sebastopol, Lake, and Scott Central, saw a slight regression from a B rating to a C rating under the new Accountability Scores. Across the State of Mississippi, we saw a decline in 4th grade and 7th grade, as a whole they were down. We found that to be very true with scores here in Scott County. We want to note that we are so thankful for the hard work of our students, teachers, and parents. We know that they will continue to raise the rigor in the classroom to get back to that B rating. Our people worked hard. They really did. We did see several high spots; Lake went to an A from a C, and we are so excited for them, Morton High School went from a D to a B, and we are very excited for them as well. We know how much hard work they had to put into those achievements.”
For other individual schools, not previously mentioned, test results revealed that Morton Elementary dropped from a B rating to a D rating while Bettye Mae Jack Middle School maintained a D rating. 

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