NP Test Scores

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

 Test scores surprising says NP conservator

By Jason C. Mattox

Change is evident within the North Panola School District, according to state-appointed conservator Bob Strebeck, whether it be in community support, staff morale, student behavior or the recently released MCT2 and Subject Area test scores.

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Test Scores

The impact of the state takeover at North Panola is not reflected in the 2007-08 scores but were still pleasing to Strebeck.

The largest percentage of proficient students for the language arts portion of the test came from fifth grade students at Crenshaw Elementary with 30 percent.

Greenhill Elementary had 33.8 percent of its tested sixth grade students who scored proficient or above on the math portion of the test.

At the high school for subject area testing, 81 percent passed the algebra I test; 86.3 percent  passed U.S. History; 91.1 percent passed Biology I while only 64.2 percent passed the English II test.

“My honest answer about the test scores is that I was surprised that some of the test scores were as good as they were,” Strebeck said. “That’s not any kind of negative reflection on anyone who taught here last year or whatever took place last year, but I am somewhat pleased.”

That doesn’t mean the conservator does not see room for improvement within the district.

“The improvements are needed across the board,” he said. “We met adequate yearly progress at every school except Crenshaw, and, at Crenshaw, only one area met AYP.”

That one area was mathematics.

“Mathematics is usually a thorn in the side of school districts throughout the state,” he said. “I don’t think we are any exception to that.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us,” Strebeck continued. “We are going to continue teaching the curriculum as best we can in all areas from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

In an effort to help improve test scores on the next MCT2 and Subject Area tests, Strebeck said three new programs were implemented for the 2008-09 school year:

•Barksdale Reading Institute is present at all elementary schools in the district for kindergarten through second grade.

•A math and science curriculum called “K-12”has been put in place in the district for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The curriculum has technology purchased with federal funding.

•Shirley English, a proven program in several districts throughout the state, has been put into place to improve English scores in the district.

“These are all very good programs that we are trying to use to improve,” he said. “At the high school, we are simply trying to improve instruction. We are trying to engage the students and teach from bell to bell with a level of rigor that is required for the state tests.”

Expectations for

 Second Semester

Nearing the half-way point of the 2008-09 school year, Strebeck said he has seen progress within the district, and plans to further that in the next semester.

“In the first half of the year, we made a lot of changes,” he said. “Some of those changes were cosmetic and some were with personnel.

“That is one of the unpleasant parts of conservatorship when you have to eliminate certain positions in order to make the necessary changes,” Strebeck added. “I am very pleased with the changes that we made and with the new staff and think they have done a great job and embraced this process.

“As far as second-half changes go, we want to make sure we are teaching from bell to bell day in and day out,” he said. “Those are concerns that face every superintendent of every district in the state.

“We have expectations that we expect to be met and the staff is straining to fulfill those expectations,” Strebeck continued. “Without those expectations, we will be unable to make North Panola the type of school district that it is capable of becoming.”

Staff/Student Morale

Past years have seen multiple vacancies pop up throughout the school year, a trend that seems to have changed this year.

“We are fully staffed at this point, and we do not anticipate any vacancies,” Strebeck said. “We might have some issues with health related absences, and we will deal with that, but I anticipate everyone returning for the second semester.”

The conservator said the morale district-wide has improved and can even be seen in students’ behavior.

“North Panola High School is no different than any other high school,” he said. “You are going to have fights and students being disrespectful, but we are addressing those issues as they present themselves. We just don’t tolerate unacceptable behavior.

“We are beginning to see a tremendous improvement in behavior, and hopefully that trend will continue,” Strebeck added.

The recent return of all seventh and eighth grade students to North Panola Junior High (formerly Como Middle School) has been a successful endeavor.

“The idea has been very well received by the students and the communities we serve and the staff at that school has been very good,” he said. “It is a good atmospheres and I feel very confident that was absolutely the right move to make.”

Response to Conservatorship

Strebeck said the communities’ reactions to the conservatorship have been mostly positive.

“I have a good relationship with the board,” he said. “They have been nothing but cordial and kind and they understand that all of the changes were made to improve the way the district operates.”

Some of the changes made include no longer allowing public comments at board meetings and streamlining the meeting procedures.

“We have two seats up for election, and the people that end up in those seats need to know that we are not going to change the way we are doing things,” he said.

“We are taking care of business, and the people in the community understand how we are going to operate,” Strebeck continued.

“The community itself got the chance to voice their opinions at three public forums, and they were great with great participation and there were some important questions asked at the end,” he said. “It gave us a chance to explain to the community why we were here and what we were doing, and the people here have been very supportive.”

Strebeck said anytime he felt a need to meet with the community, another round of forums would be held, but added that community information officer Mack Dandridge has done an excellent job in communicating with the people of the North Panola School District.

“We are certainly not trying to hide anything, and I feel confident the community knows that,” he said.

“Coming in as a conservator, you might have a stigma of something negative, but the reasoning for every decision has been what is in the best interest of the students,” Strebeck continued. “I appreciate the people of this district and their embracing this process.”

The conservator said he did not know how long he would be in the district but believes when that time ends, the people of North Panola will have a district they can be proud of.

“Whenever that time does come, we are going to leave the district in good shape, and I don’t believe the people want to regress,” he said.