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Kate Griffin students don't mind missing PE

By Staff
EXTRA HELP Billy Herlong, left, and Benjamin Blair, right, receive extra help Thursday with their math from Shernise Wilson, a teacher at Kate Griffin Junior High School. Wilson teaches a supplemental math class designed to help students improve their scores on standardized achievement tests. Photo by Kyle Carter / The Meridian Star
By Georgia Frye / staff writer
Sept. 26, 2003
I spent part of Thursday at Kate Griffin Junior High School, and what I found most interesting was that students are willing to make sacrifices to improve their standardized test scores.
Phillip Daniels, Kate Griffin's principal, eliminated art and physical education for students who scored poorly on last year's Mississippi Curriculum Test which gauges reading, language and math in second through eighth grades.
Daniels added supplemental math and English classes this fall. Students who scored in the "basic" or "minimal" category the two lowest scores on the MCT will take those classes instead of art and PE.
Before my visit, I thought I'd find unhappy students and frustrated teachers at Kate Griffin. I found neither; students taking the extra classes said they didn't mind the extra work because they want to improve.
Improvement plans
On Monday, Daniels and other middle and junior high school principals outlined for the Meridian Public School Board their plans to improve student scores on statewide standardized achievement tests.
The meeting was the second of three for the school board. Elementary schools discussed their plans the week before; Meridian High School Principal R.D. Harris will present his plan Oct. 13.
Daniels' plan was simple and to-the-point: He said he believes eliminating electives and adding additional classes will give students who are behind an opportunity to catch up.
Teachers at Kate Griffin said the extra classes are a good way to meet the students' basic needs so they can go forward.
Kate Griffin and Carver Middle School were the only Meridian schools rated Level 1, or "low-performing," by the state Department of Education. The previous year, six Meridian schools were rated Level 1.
Extra help
So, Braithwaite and other Kate Griffin English teachers are spending extra time with those students who need help. Math teachers also are working with students.
Michelle Davis, an eighth-grade math teacher, said she is glad the school is offering the supplementary math classes.
Braithwaite agreed, adding that "students will have time to make up their physical education requirements when they get to the high school."
Despite the extra effort, Daniels said he finds that teachers and students believe no one in the community cares about them. As he put it, "They feel like we are alone on an island."
What I found at Kate Griffin was not at all what I expected. I thought I would see chaos and indifference, and what I saw was a school has the potential to become better.
I asked Daniels what he thought the school needed in order to improve, and he said, "If we had the support of some of the people in the community and the right resources, we could definitely improve test scores."