The Lamar County School District is celebrating an 8th-place ranking and the highest-ranked county school district in the state for a second year in a row. These rankings for the 2017-18 school year are based on the Mississippi Department of Education’s accountability scores which were unofficially released last week.
District Superintendent Tess Smith thinks the results are phenomenal.
“I am always proud of my county and my district, but it is nice to have added reasons for that pride,” she said.
While those rankings and other proficiency scores across the board in math, science, history and reading garnered the district’s schools all As and Bs, what will happen to the district’s rankings once scores for the Lumberton schools are added?
The Lumberton School District was consolidated with the LCSD at the start of this school year, so next year’s scores will include Lumberton students. Scores for Lumberton included a C for the now-defunct district, a D or 180th-place ranking for Lumberton High School and a B or 295th ranking for Lumberton Elementary.
Smith has no idea what the district’s grade or ranking would have been if Lumberton’s numbers were factored in with those of other schools in the district.
“That is not something that can be easily calculated due to the enrollment differences and how our accountability is measured,” Smith said. “Also, with the configuration changes we made it is really not relevant.”
Under the new leadership plan, Lumberton now has three schools – a high school, junior high and elementary.
“Lumberton schools are a part of the LCSD now and they will receive the same focus and attention and will be provided with the same resources that our other 16 schools receive,” Smith said.
She noted that teacher collaboration across schools within the district will also provide additional support to Lumberton teachers.
“Our goal has been to pair each staff member in Lumberton with a mentor from another school in the district – a ‘go-to’ person for questions.
“Our teachers work collaboratively in Professional Learning Communities (PCEs) weekly. This gives teachers the opportunity to interpret grade-level standards, develop common assessments, plan instructional strategies, and monitor student progress towards mastery of the standards. This collaborative process builds the capacity of all teachers resulting in strong student outcomes.”
According to the superintendent, it has been a goal of the LCSD to increase the collaboration between teachers across the district.
“The implementation of PLCs, curriculum maps and common assessments has provided our teachers with a universal cornerstone which is used for conversations and sharing of instructional strategies.
“The consistency in our schools is a direct result of the hard work and dedication our administrators, faculty, staff and students. Their collaboration with one another, our parents, and the community is what drives the success of the LCSD.
Smith said the district is choosing to focus on the future, thus, their theme for this year, #As1LCSD.
“It has been a great start to a year of reaching across school lines and working together at all levels,” she said.
Smith said she often struggles with the ‘numbers.’
“I never want us to lose my focus of what is the most important thing that we do – educate students,” she said. “Our mission is to provide a quality education in a safe and healthy learning environment with opportunities for all students to experience success. That is our goal in the LCSD, and I believe that we all work tirelessly toward that mission from the school board to the bus driver and all points in between.”
While some schools in the district were lower than others in some areas of proficiency, Smith said that after reviewing data annually, they always have areas of focus.
“The key is that as we focus on areas of need that we do not fall short in other areas,” she said. “In saying that, we requested that schools/grades make an effort to collaborate across school lines. Once it started, we are seeing a more voluntary effort by our teachers. Teachers are choosing to meet with their peers from other schools either in person or through our technology resources. We can always learn from each other.”
Smith said this is the time of year where they celebrate the district’s successes, large and small. Then they’ll regroup and tackle it again.
“It is a part of the educational process to grow students from year to year,” she said.
According to Smith, the district is under new science standards and with new history standards this year, those tests next year will change accordingly to match the new standards.
She said teachers are constantly working to stay on top of the changes and how to best share them with their students
As far as graduation rate, the district ranking was 8th in the state.
“Graduation rate is always a concern,” Smith said. “As I often say, we run a large business and our product is students. We want to see all of students receive their diploma.”