It's still an uphill climb academically for the Meridian Public School District, which fell a grade point in test scores this year, receiving a D from the state.
The results were better for the county school district, which earned a B.
Test scores were released by the Mississippi Department of Education on Friday, but school administrators have known the results for several weeks and have already made preparations for dealing with the results.
MPSD dropped one point in Quality Distribution Index (QDI) score on the 2012-13 state tests, and based on the state accountability model, MPSD’s letter grade went from C to D.
“Obviously, we are not happy with the district moving from C to D, but we are pleased with the overall progress we have made in the last two years,” said Dr. Alvin Taylor, MPSD superintendent.
Taylor said using the current grading system, in 2010-11, MPSD would have had seven F schools, two D schools, and one B school while the overall District would have been labeled F with a QDI score of 126. As of the 2012-13 school year, MPSD has made improvements to those scores and is no longer labeled a failing district, he said.
MPSD expanded the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the beginning of the school year by hiring five instructional specialists who every day work directly with teachers by coaching, mentoring, and modeling effective teaching strategies, Taylor said.
"We have looked at the data and we've seen that our teachers need more training and support in various areas so we, based on our data, looked at the teachers who were very strong in raising test scores. We have made them trainers of teachers," Taylor said. "If the teachers improve how they teach in the classroom, the students will do better."
In addition, Taylor said, MPSD is working to increase the rigor and pace in each classroom in order to ensure that each objective is taught thoroughly. Also, in an effort to improve literacy among all students, MPSD has expanded the READ 180 program to all secondary schools, and academic interventionists are working with students that need interventions in reading and math.
"When our students are struggling, our academic interventionists are there to provide remedial help and extra support," Taylor said.
He said specific improvements from the 2012-13 school year include: Carver Middle School improved QDI score by 13 points which results in a 22 point gain over the last two years; Magnolia Middle School moved from F to D and increased QDI score by 13 points; Meridian High School showed growth and increased their letter grade from D to C; Northwest Middle School increased QDI score by 7 points; and Poplar Springs Elementary School showed growth.
As a whole, the state of Mississippi is improving at a rate of 6.5 percent, but the Meridian Public School District is improving at a rate of 9.6 percent, according to Taylor.
“In order to catch up with the state, we are going to have to outpace them, and the good news is, we are doing just that,” said Taylor.
Taylor acknowledged that much remains to be done to improve the school district.
“While we are not pleased with the overall results from this past year, we have come a long way and will continue to strive to show improvement for the 2013-14 school year,” said Taylor. “I ask for your patience as we are diligently working hard each and every day to ensure that the students of Meridian receive the best education possible. We do have many challenges ahead of us, but we can overcome those with the help of parents and community members. We still need mentors and tutors, and we encourage parents and community members to visit our schools on a regular basis. It is going to take 100 percent effort from all stakeholders working together to get our district to where it needs to be.”