Petal is No. 1 district again

By HASKEL BURNS AND BETH BUNCH,

Two area school districts are among the Top 10 in the state in this year’s Mississippi Statewide Accountability System: the Petal School District, which has earned the No. 1 spot in the state for the third time in the last five years, and the Lamar County School District, which placed ninth in the state.

The accountability system, the results of which were released Tuesday by the Mississippi Department of Education, assigns a performance rating of A, B, C, D and F for each district and school based on established criteria. Those measures include student achievement, individual student growth, graduation rate and participation rate.

The assessments are used to measure proficiency and growth for students in grades 3-8 and high school students taking end-of-course subject area assessments in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History. Schools with grades 3-8 can receive up to 750 points, while end-of-course-assessment schools – as well as districts – can receive up to 1,000.

The ratings, which will be formally approved by MDE officials next month, show the Petal School District with an A grade and 754 points of a possible 1,000, good for first in the state. The district moves up from last year’s rankings, when it was rated No. 2 in the state with 750 points.

“I’m just extremely proud of our faculty, staff, leaders, students, and family,” said Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District. “What stands out to me most is the consistency each and every year – the consistency of building positive relationships with students, the consistency of teaching the standards to a very high level and engaging the students with world-class educational opportunities.

“And then our students performing at such a high level – I’m proud that we don’t make excuses, we work hard and we put in the extra work. We talk a lot about being extraordinary, and these are extraordinary results, based off extraordinary efforts. I cannot say enough about the team of Petal Panthers and the results that we’re getting year in and year out.”

As far as individual schools in the Petal School District, each of the district’s five schools received an A rating. Petal High School received 764 points (17th in the state), Petal Primary School received 541 points (43rd in the state), Petal Elementary School received 521 points (61st in the state), Petal Upper Elementary School received 500 points (61st in the state) and Petal Middle School received 493 points (69th in the state).

Dillon said although the accountability model provides many challenges for a district like Petal, the district still manages to have the highest proficiency levels in English Language Arts and math, as well as the third-highest U.S. History proficiency level and the fourth-highest proficiency level in the state.

“That’s spectacular,” he said. “I can’t say enough about all the individual schools working toward a common purpose and working toward a common mission, with the laser-like focus, day in and day out.

“Then for us collectively to receive the rating that we have, based on individual schools, it’s pretty special. It goes back to our support staff, and our various departments as well – everybody plays a role in this district, and everybody knows their role. Our goal is to be as effective and efficient as possible in everything that we do.”

 

Forrest County Agricultural High School

As a district, Forrest County Agricultural High School – which is in a district of its own – ranked 92nd in the state, with a C grade and 552 points. As a school, FCAHS received a D with 552 points.

Last year, FCAHS was ranked 54th in the state as a district, with a B grade and 606 points. The school was ranked 130th with a C grade.

Supt. Donna Boone knows there is work to do done.

“While the accountability ratings represent how well students are performing as measured by the state assessments, that letter grade does not represent the totality of the educational program at our school,” she said. “For example, we had numerous students score Platinum, Gold, and Silver on the ACT WorkKeys, yet those scores are not reflected in the model.

“With that being said, we are not making excuses. Our rating this year was disappointing, but it has increased our sense of urgency in serving our students. We have already made adjustments this year by realigning resources and changing our in-house assessments. Our staff is ready to accept the challenge of moving forward.”

Forrest County School District

The Forrest County School District came in 41st in the state, with a B grade and 640 points – a marked improvement over last year’s 65th rating and 596 points.

North Forrest High School – which is graded as an untraditional school – received a B with 676 points. South Forrest Attendance Center received an A with 453 points, Dixie Attendance Center received a B with 417 points, Rawls Springs Attendance Center received a B with 403 points, and Earl Travillion Attendance Center received a D with 323 points.