NHS jumps from ‘D’ to ‘B’ thanks to growth

By BRENT MAZE,

Newton High School has been celebrating its jump from a “D” to a “B” when the accountability grades were released by the Mississippi Department of Education.

Parents lined a walkway to cheer their students and teachers as they walked into the school’s auditorium for a pep rally to celebrate the achievement on Friday.

Newton High School principal Shernise Wilson said she was excited to see the score jump so much. The score of 712 was just seven points off Union and was higher than Newton County High School.

“We changed up the curriculum,” Wilson said. “The students and teachers put a lot of time and effort into the last year, and we saw a big jump in our scores.”

Wilson said they offered tutoring for students, and they used data from last year’s scores to help those students who were underperforming to raise their scores. And with the success, Wilson said the teachers will receive incentives for their hard work.

Overall, the school district improved to a “C” rating from a “D” last year. Newton Elementary School remained at a “C,” just missing the “B” level by 12 points. N.H. Pilate Middle School improved to a “D” from a failing grade last year.

While the district saw gains, Newton Municipal School Superintendent Nola Bryant said this is just a start for the district.

“I believe we can be an ‘A’ school district,” Bryant said. “We’re not going to stop until we are the No. 1 school district in Mississippi.”

The 2016-17 accountability grades are based, in part, on how well students perform and progress from year to year on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) tests for English language arts (ELA) and Mathematics. These tests are aligned to the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards and are administered annually to students in grades 3-8 and in high school.

While Newton still lagged in proficiency, the school ranked ninth overall in Reading Low Growth and second in Math Low Growth. Overall, the school ranked 22nd in Math Growth and 27th in Reading Growth. It also ranked 16th in acceleration.

In proficiency, Newton High still ranked anywhere from 140th to 211th for reading, math, science and U.S. history. The school’s graduation rate ranked 83rd.

Bryant said the state test has changed over the last several years, but they finally have a baseline to compare test scores since they have used the MAAP for the last two years.

“Now we are comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges,” Bryant said. “These are a true baseline with which to compare. In the past, we’ve used PARC which tested Common Core standards, but this is testing the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards.

“While we’re excited with the scores, we’re not satisfied with where we are.”

Bryant said they are planning to look at ways to make sure that all students are ready for when they come to kindergarten or first grade. A goal is to secure funding to add a pre-kindergarten class at NES, along with meeting with Head Start and all local preschools to make sure that students are ready to begin school.

She also wants to continue to implement programs to help students at Pilate Middle School by giving students incentives such as getting to wear normal clothes instead of uniforms on Friday if they are on time to class and do all their work.

“You would never think that something like that would work, but it does for our middle school,” Bryant said. “We’re going to look at everything we do and try to do everything we can to help our students excel and be the best they can be.”