North Pike schools officials have taken a deep dive into testing data Thursday to identify areas of weakness in instruction, school district trustees learned at their regular meeting Thursday.

Principals presented their analysis of accountability ratings and said they’re dedicated to improving upon the foundation of growth they’ve built over recent years.

Superintendent Dennis Penton said he is proud and supportive of the initiative administrators have taken to improve the effectiveness of their work and instruction. He said the success they’ve seen is due to their ability to confront their deficits honestly.

North Pike retained its B rating earlier this year, with the elementary school moving from a C to a B, the junior high dropping from a B to a C and the high school improving from a C to a B.

“All of these good scores are due to good teachers,” Penton said. “I’m very proud of where we are as a district and of the people who work with us.”

Although the middle school moved from a B to a C, Penton said that is due in large part to the nature of the growth model of education. He said when a school improves significantly one year it is less likely to improve upon that foundation the next year. Penton said the big jump in growth for a given group of students usually happens in the third year. He said he expects the middle school to be back up at a B after this school year.

The board learned graduation rates increased from 77% in 2014 to 88% last year with a dropout rate of just over 10. The average ACT score was 19.2, up from 18.3 the year before. Penton said that’s the second-highest average the high school has ever seen.

North Pike Lower Elementary School Principal Lori Harrell said a literacy grant received in May funded Camp Little Jag, an immersive reading camp for young students. She said the program went well and improved students’ reading skills.

Harrell cited strong parental involvement in the success of the program.

Harrell said the school held a literacy bootcamp for students who scored low on the last state assessment. She said she’s pleased with the growth in math she’s seen in students so far this year and that the implementation of rewards for good attendance has helped those rates.

Upper Elementary principal Angela Benefield said her staff has placed significant emphasis on taking advantage of professional development opportunities this year. She said doing so enables teachers and administrators to better serve children in the district.

Benefield said they’ve made a concerted effort to introduce more writing into subjects other than English/language arts such as social science. She said she’s seen students take a stronger interest in writing since implementing the tactic.

Junior high principal Allen Barron said he’s been working with high school principal Scott Hallmark on curriculum alignment to more efficiently prepare students grades 6-12 on standards in mathematics to ensure the continuation of skill development from one year to the next.

“I think our math scores are going to jump forward,” Baron said.

Hallmark said the high school added a number of half-credit courses that run nine weeks to completion. He said those are mostly technology courses. He said the high school added more advanced placement courses through the use of computer software and is looking into starting a robotics course next school year.

Hallmark said administrators are working with Southwest Mississippi Community College toward a “middle college” approach to high school, an agreement that would allow North Pike students to earn up to 30 credit hours while still in high school. He said he’s hopeful the district will have everything in place within two years. The high school introduced pre-ACT testing for ninth- and 10th-graders this year and Hallmark said those scores will help administrators identify strong candidates for the partnership with SMCC.

He said working with Barron to develop heightened curriculum alignment in math will benefit students in the long run and leave them better prepared for college.

“I think we’ll see some real tangible results quickly with that,” he said.

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