North Pike officials discussed how and what the district’s teachers might be able to learn from other school districts at a special meeting Thursday.

“We talked about doing that for years, and it never happened,” board member Kevin Matthew said.

Career & Technical Center director Daryl Brock told the board on Nov. 2 that he wanted his teachers to go visit higher-ranking programs around the state to see how instruction here might be improved.

Superintendent Dennis Penton said he had recently visited Gulfport schools during a conference on college and career readiness to look at how that district handles dual enrollment.

“I got some good ideas that I’m putting together with (high school principal Scott) Hallmark and (Curriculum Coordinator Glenda) Leonard to see how it might work,” Penton said.

Penton said the district would probably benefit from sending groups of teachers to visit schools and districts with similar characteristics to North Pike, but which have higher test scores; but can also accomplish the goal of improvement by having teachers attend state and regional conferences, where sessions on best practices in various topics are often presented.

Middle school principal Allen Barron said a group of his teachers is scheduled to visit an elementary school in Gulfport to learn more about how teachers there use the iReady diagnostic computer program, and elementary principal Lori Harrell said a group of teachers from Bogue Chitto would be visiting North Pike to observe teachers.

Penton said the district has recently purchased a software program that analyzes grades and testing data to assess teacher effectiveness.

“It will help us look at trends,” Penton said. “Teachers who aren’t doing as well can be put on improvement plans or assigned mentors. The can be given strategies on teaching specific skills.”

“What can we do to help the schools?” board member Jamie Jackson asked. “In other districts, are there policies that offer better support? Can other district do things we don’t let you do?”

Penton said schools, like other large institutions, need time for improvements to become evident.

“It’s like driving a barge, not a speedboat,” he said. “I think, as a board, you’re doing what you need to do.”

Board president Scott Campbell noted that the district is, in a way, a victim of its own success. A higher graduation rate and fewer dropouts means more lower-performing students are staying in school and taking state tests.

“You’d rather have those students in school, even though, if they dropped out, your test scores might look a little better,” Campbell said. “We’re here to do the best we can for all our students.”

Penton said December assessments in classes and through the district’s diagnostic software would give district officials a good idea of where students are and “a good basis to predict where we’ll be at the end of the year.”

Matthew lamented the power school ratings have in the public’s mind.

“We’re here to work in the interest of every child, but the public judges us by that one score,” he said.

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