By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the System to Enhance Educational Performance screening program, cutting three of the annual evaluations for students in kindergarten through second grade.
The STEEP program, produced by iSTEEP, LLC, measures students’ fluency in reading and math, a task SSD superintendent Lewis Holloway said the newly implemented MAP testing would perform more efficiently. He said STEEP also does not provide information teachers need to improve instruction, especially concerning mathematics, and he believes teachers will be pleased to be rid of the test.
“The iSTEEP is a hand-scored test; (it is) very labor intensive,” Holloway said. “(Removing STEEP will) save us about $13,000 (per year).”
Assistant Secretary Eric Heiselt said he was eager to make the motion to end the STEEP testing.
“I was ready to go,” Heiselt said. “(The STEEP) kills the whole day.”
Board member Jenny Turner said the STEEP test was also inconsistent with the Mississippi Curriculum Test. Teachers often encourage students to take their time with the MCT, she said, but with the STEEP, they have to hurry.
“As a parent, I always thought the iSTEEP was confusing,” Turner said. “My children were like, “Is this the one I hurry on, or is this the one where I take my time?”
The board did not take action on Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman’s request to hold meetings on a different day of the month. Because SSD board meetings on the first Tuesday of each month typically coincide with the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s monthly meeting, Holloway asked the board to consider moving its meetings to the second Tuesday of each month.
When several board members said their schedules prohibited such a change, Holloway proposed changing the meeting dates starting in 2013. The board members said this delay would give them time to plan their 2013 schedules around the new meeting dates, but SSD Board President Keith Coble said because this would constitute a policy change, he preferred for the board to see the amended policy language before voting on it. For this reason, the board tabled the matter until its next meeting.
The board also voted to create a position for a technology integration specialist. Holloway said this hire will coordinate the school’s existing technology officers; he said this position proved extremely helpful when he was superintendent in Bulloch County, Georgia.
“Think of the person as a trainer of trainers,” Holloway said. “Will technology continue to move ahead without this position? Yes, but the speed (at which) it will move, we think it will be better.”
Holloway said the specialist will also oversee a central energy management system for a few hours each week, improving the district’s revenue. In a related matter, the district approved a $16,000 evaluation of the school district’s heating and cooling system from Johnson Controls.