Newton County among top 15 school districts

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

On Thursday, the Mississippi Department of Education released letter grades for schools and districts based on Mississippi’s A-F accountability system that evaluates how schools and districts performed in the 2016-17 school year.

District grades for 2016-17 included 15 “A” districts, 43 “B” districts, 43 “C” districts, 36 “D” districts and 9 “F” districts.

Among those 15 “A” districts was Newton County School District, which rose from a “B” district in the 2015-16 school year finishing 15th in the rankings for school districts with 668 total points

Enterprise School District, which was ranked No. 5 in the state, was the only area school district ranked higher than Newton County in total points.

Newton County Superintendent of Education J.O. Amis said that a joint effort from students and all stakeholders again contributed to the district’s success.

“We were very proud. It took a lot of hard work from everybody; from teachers, assistant teachers, counselors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, it takes them all,” Amis said. “And there’s a lot of volunteers who take out time to help our kids. We couldn’t have done it without their hard work too.”

Newton County Elementary School retained it’s “A” rating with 444 total points and Newton County Middle/High School had a “B” rating with 668 total points. Brian Foster, NCSD director of testing and curriculum, said the results are also the result of ongoing efforts by the administration, the school board and teachers.

“I just think that what we’re doing and what we’ve been doing for the past few years, we’re finally starting to see a lot of growth from that,” Foster said. “We’re getting better at looking at data, we’re getting better at using that data to do lesion planning and instruction, and we’re getting better at using technology. We put a lot of that stuff in place a few years ago and now we’re seeing the results for it.”

Foster said that the district bought 150 Google Chromebooks this school year and that they hope that more technology will keep the students maintain their performance in the classroom.

“We also purchased the new software I-Ready this year and we’re hoping that gets us even better at finding students weaknesses and targeting those weaknesses,” Foster said.

The 2016-17 accountability data was used to set a new baseline to determine the thresholds for earning each letter grade. The Mississippi State Board of Education decided in August to set a new baseline to correct artificially high growth rates included in the 2015-16 grades.

For the 2016-17 accountability grades, districts and schools have been awarded the highest grade they were able to achieve based on current thresholds or the new baseline for 2017-18. The highest grade is the official grade, though both possible grades have been published for transparency.