Hattiesburg has five “B” rated schools for first time ever

By BETH BUNCH,

The Hattiesburg Public School District is excited to have five of the district schools receive a “B” rating in this year’s Mississippi Statewide Accountability System. Grace Christian, Hawkins Elementary, Thames Elementary, Woodley Elementary and Burger Middle School were all named High Performing Schools.

“We are excited that schools in our district continue to make great strides in student achievement,” said Supt. Robert Williams. “For the first time in district history, five of our schools are “B” rated at the same time. While we celebrate the success of our schools, we also realize that we must continue to identify specific areas of weaknesses for all students.”

Rowan Elementary received was rated “C” or successful.

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.

But the district knows it has some work to do in other areas of the district.

The district ranked 101st in the state, with a D grade and 534 points. The district also showed big improvement from last year, when it was ranked 120th with 499 points.

Hattiesburg High School received an F with 485 points, following last year’s F ranking with 501 points. Thames Elementary School earned a B with 415 points, Hawkins Elementary School earned a B with 396 points, Woodley Elementary School earned a B with 394 points, N.R. Burger Middle School earned a B with 382 points, Grace Christian Elementary School earned a B with 379 points, Rowan Elementary School earned a C with 360 points, and Lillie Burney Steam Academy earned an F with 268 points.

Hattiesburg High and Lillie Burney STEAM Academy both received “F” grades, but a plan is already in place to help bring those grades up.

“We have restructured the leadership team at Hattiesburg High School and implemented an action plan to address the needs of teachers and students,” Williams said, “Moreover, Hattiesburg High is targeting literacy, professional learning communities, and student accountability through data review, goal setting, and strategic academic conversations.”

He said they have increased the graduation rate and provided more opportunities through dual enrollment/dual credit, Advanced Placement courses, and Industry Certifications to ensure our students are prepared for success.

“We are currently in the second year of the Middle College program where 19 students are working to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree through a partnership with Pearl River Community College,” he said.

“We have also streamlined the course curriculum and resources for our ACT Prep class at Hattiesburg High and are working to offer ACT Prep and testing opportunities to our middle school students as well as 9th and 10th graders for early exposure prior to the state administration of the ACT during their junior year.”

Williams said in an effort to decrease the district’s dropout numbers the high school has created a detailed drop-out prevention plan that addresses contributing factors.

“At Lillie Burney, we are committed to continuous improvement and growth; the teachers are actively participating in data rich and instructionally focused professional learning communities with administrative oversight,” Williams said. “ he school has a new administration team that is implementing actions steps to address school culture and climate as well as build a supportive learning environment for students and teachers.”

Because the majority of the district’s schools received passing grades, Williams believes there are things they can take from the “B” and “C” schools to help.

“The faculty and staff were very intentional in identifying individual student needs,” he said. “Students were placed in small groups to address skill deficits using high-quality, researched-based strategies and materials. Schools repeatedly held students accountable by holding data conversations throughout the school year.”

According to Williams, some administrators also attributed high expectations, a winning mindset and teamwork to the success of their schools.

“We believe these actions positively impacted our achievement scores,” he said. “Also, there is no substitute for student, parent, and faculty buy-in. We plan to implement many of these success proven strategies at Lillie Burney and Hattiesburg High School.”