Meridian educators face challenge
School board, principals
develop strategies as 2003
accreditation deadline nears
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Dec. 22, 2001
The Meridian School Board met with principals this week to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop plans of attack, as the deadline for individual school accreditation draws closer.
The plans were based on student scores on the Mississippi Curriculum Tests, Mississippi Writing Tests and Subject Area Tests, taken in the spring. The tests will be used to assign each school an individual accreditation level in 2003.
At the Meridian School Board meeting Monday, there was more concern. Most Meridian students fell into the "basic" and "minimal" performance levels on the Mississippi Curriculum Tests and below the statewide average on Subject Area Tests.
Principals from each school addressed the board for five minutes to sketch out their improvement plans.
Witherspoon and Crestwood elementary schools have received Barksdale Reading Institute grants to improve reading skills. The program targets poorer performing elementary schools. The schools also have "Success For All," a program that focuses on reading in all curriculum. The students' reading levels are tested every eight weeks.
Edwards said she is optimistic about second-grade math scores, which showed 58 percent of the students scoring at the "proficient" or "advanced" levels, and the fourth-grade reading scores, which showed 50 percent of the students were at the same levels. But, in all other areas in each grade, the majority of students at Witherspoon scored within the "basic" or "minimal" levels.
Middle and high school
Middle school principals Robert Markham, at Carver, and Lucy Keene, at Magnolia, said their schools will focus on tutoring opportunities already in place to bring students up to higher skill levels.
Phillip Daniels, principal of Kate Griffin Junior High School, said teachers are volunteering to tutor students and he plans to schedule additional math and language arts classes.
Meridian High School Principal, James Bounds, told the board he wants to increase the number of instructional hours in all tested areas.
Meridian School Board President Fred Wile thanked the principals for their presentations. "We have to quit acting like we don't have a problem. Once you admit you have a problem, you can fix it," he said.
Ed Lynch, the board's vice president, said, "We've got to be creative. We have to keep in mind children are people, too. If you don't see much in a child, you're not going to educate much out of them."
Districtwide, Meridian fared lower than the state average on the Mississippi Curriculum Tests in the percentage of students who scored at the "advanced" and "proficient" levels and higher in the percentage of students who scored at the "basic" and "minimal" levels in reading, grades 2-7; language, grades 2-7; and math, grades 3-5.
A larger percentage of Meridian eighth-graders scored at the "advanced" and "proficient" levels in reading than the state average and a larger percentage of seventh-graders scored at the same levels in math.
On the Mississippi Writing Tests, Meridian's seventh-graders matched the state average of 2.3 on a four-point scale. The district's fourth-graders scored 2.0 compared to the state's 2.1 grade average.
On Subject Area Tests, informative writing was the only area in which the district's students scored higher, on average, than the state.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at email@example.com.