South Pike trustees heard examples Thursday of student improvement in academics but noted discipline and attendance are two issues the district has to deal with.

Eva Gordon Lower Elementary School Principal Kim Daniels said she wants to see her school have a 30% increase in reading scores and a 35% increase in mathematics scores.

Daniels also noted that while the school received an F rating, it was just 12 points away from a D. That also represents an increase of 72 points since the 2017-18 school year.

Daniels said the goal is to improve past a D, considering how close the school already is to achieving that.

Enrollment at Eva Gordon Lower Elementary is at 413 students for September, Daniels said. Average daily attendance at the school is at 94.52% for September. However, 22.5% of students were absent for two or more days during September, and that is a point of concern.

Eva Gordon Upper Elementary Principal Dr. Geneva Holmes said her school set a goal of 50% growth in every subject area for its students over the 2019-20 school year.

Enrollment at Eva Gordon Upper is at 303 students for the month of September, Holmes said. Average daily attendance at the school is at 94.4% for September and 17.82% of students were absent for two or more days.

Holmes said the school had 32 discipline events that month, which influenced absenteeism. Holmes said the school saw several fights, and when students fight, it usually results in the participants kept out of school for two or more days.

Eva Gordon Upper is looking to address that issue in a number of ways. District Attorney Dee Bates is coming to the school to speak to the children about bullying, Holmes said.

The school has also implemented a check-in, check-out program in which adults check on children throughout the day. School officials also are trying to be proactive by looking at implementing rewards for good behavior. Holmes said that in many cases, children simply have a short temper and speaking with the counselor on strategies to control their temper can be beneficial.

Trustee Eva L. Andrews said she would like to see less reliance on out-of-school suspension because of how it impacts attendance and test scores.

Superintendent Dr. Donna Scott agreed and said that those things often work as a sort of “domino effect.” Scott added that students have to be at school for 63% of the day to be counted as present and that if students come late or leave early they can sometimes be counted as absent.

Trustee Dr. Luke Lampton suggested the district look into starting an after-school program that would serve to reinforce academic skills while making up for lost class time. Students with high rates of absenteeism would be targeted for the program.

Board President Samuel Hall said attendance has an effect on academic performance but also on district funding, which is largely allocated based on daily attendance figures.

High school principal Camita Dillon said that she has high goals for her students this year.

Dillon told the board that low dual enrollment, in which high school students take college-level courses, cost the high school 70 points on its accountability rating, which pushed the school down to an F from a D.

“That’s what brought you down,” Trustee Clara Conerly said.

Dillon said she is working to improve dual-enrollment figures and that the school is looking to rise above a D rating. So far this year the school has seen improvement with 36 students in dual enrollment next semester.

Dillon wants to see improvement to 50% proficiency in reading, 50% proficiency in mathematics and 60% proficiency in science. She hopes to see the overall growth of all students at 65% and growth of all students in math to reach 80%.

Enrollment at the high school is up to 503 students in September, Dillon said. Average daily attendance at the school is 93% for September, with 25% of students have two or more absences in the month of September.

Dillon said that many of those absences can be explained by the hustle and bustle of homecoming week festivities. The high school had 77 discipline referrals in September.

Dillon told the board that the high school is focusing on ACT prep this year and has invited representatives from various branches of the armed forces to encourage students in their studies. Dillon told the board that the high school received a grant from Jumpstart Test Prep that helps prepare students for the exam.

Trustee Andrews said she would like to see students exposed to the ACT material earlier than in high school in order to better understand it. Trustee Lampton said that the ACT is difficult and meant for junior-level children, but that he thinks the board should look at how other elementary and middle schools conduct ACT preparation.

“The earlier the children see it, the better,” Andrews said.

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