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Improvement plans discussed for East High, Elementary

March 8, 2011

The Oktibbeha County School Board heard school improvement plans from principals Monday night during the regularly scheduled board meeting.
As East High School received a failing label and East Elementary received an at risk label after last year's state tests, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) put together school improvement plans for each school based on observations that were made at the schools.
East Elementary Principal Yolanda Magee addressed the major challenged observed by MDE and explained how she and the school are working to correct those.
The first challenge witnessed by MDE was that instruction was primarily teacher-centered and textbook-based. To remedy this, Magee explained that she now visits at least five classrooms a day with a camera in her hand to document classroom instruction. She noted that she has observed many classrooms where students are engaged in student-centered discussions with hands-on activities, while the teacher is acting as more of a facilitator as opposed to what MDE noticed with teachers leading classroom discussions.
In addressing the rigor and depth of knowledge (DOK) being used in the classroom, Magee has worked with teachers on increasing the both aspects to be consistent with the types of questions used on the MCT2 and has administered practice tests to reflect that.
Magee has used the practice tests data to see what areas students need help with the most. She has grouped students with similar subject area problems together so they can work together to receive more help in those areas.
Though kindergarten through third grade does not take the MCT2, Magee has decided to put together an MCT2-like test for those students to take to start to familiarize them with test-taking.
Teachers are also meeting in peer groups two hours a week for staff-based professional development, and school pacing guides have been revised throughout all grades.
East High School Principal Broderwick Cochran also delivered his school improvement plan update during Monday night's meeting.
He explained that when the school improvement plan was first given to him, he noticed that MDE reported that there was a lack of emphasis on instruction, and that was the first thing he wanted to change, he said.
He added that students are being asked not to check out of school early for things that can wait until after school lets out, and though he has received irate phone calls from parents, he has explained to them that instruction is of utmost importance, he reported. He has also increased instruction time in each class from 50 to 55 minutes.
Cochran is also visiting at least five classrooms per day to ensure teachers are as affective as possible in helping students lead their own classroom discussions.
"We're working on rigor — less textbooks and less teacher lectures," he explained. "We're focusing on more student-led, hands-on lectures."
Cochran is also administering MCT2 practice tests several times a year, and was pleased to report that the Quality Distribution Index (QDI) recorded on the last practice test was 136, which is just 20 QDI points away from receiving a successful label on the MCT2.
A data team has been formed at the school, and they use the data from the practice tests to find which areas the students need the most help with so that teachers can review material that is missed often on the practice tests.
"Instruction, DOK and rigor are an on-going process," Cochran said. "We're working to make lesson plans to match the DOK and rigor tested on the MCT2."
Cochran is hoping to organize a teacher team to work during the summer to revise pacing guides to stay current with the demands of MDE, as he explained that is a difficult task to complete while school is still in session.
Also in new business, the board approved the amendment of the English Language Learner Procedure. Though the district does not currently have English language learners, they have in the past and found that the problems did not lie in communicating with the students, but rather with the parents. The amendment to the procedure will be for schools to seek resources from Mississippi State to affectively correspond with parents. The district administrators are hoping that MSU will be a vital resource in translating all documents that are sent home with the students in whatever language the family uses at home.
The board also approved the amendment of the 2010–2011 school calendar to reflect changes needed due to the four snow days this year. The students will have a 60 percent day Saturday, April 16.
Supt. James Covington decided to make that Saturday the annual academic tournament between the East and the West schools, and students may dress in jeans and their school uniform shirt.
Monday, April 25 will also be a make-up day instead of an Easter Holiday. The district also added two additional days to the end of the calendar so that students' last day will be Monday, May 23 and teachers' last day will be Wednesday, May 25.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held Monday, April 4 at West Oktibbeha County High School in Maben at 6 p.m.

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