State delays releasing official scores

The release of schools’ reports cards was delayed for a month, but some of the results trickled out to the media ... and not all of them were good.

The Laurel School District was the only one in the Pine Belt to be graded with an “F” and the Jones County School District received a “B,” their leaders said. All of the county elementary schools were graded A or B and all of its middle and high schools got a C, Superintendent Tommy Parker said.

The state board of education, which inexplicably stopped the release of the scores to the public on Thursday, have said that “revisions are being consid- ered” to the way the grades were calculated, Parker said.

Laurel Schools Superintendent Dr. Toy Watts said that she and other school leaders have developed an intense plan to help increase student proficiency, and that includes changes to administration, policies, technology, instruction and curriculum.

“With over 80 percent of our students scoring below the proficiency mark in many areas, we see great opportunity for growth,” Watts said. “As I begin my first full school year with the Laurel School District, we are excited to bring about many positive changes for 2018-19. During the summer, our leadership team worked diligently to revamp all aspects of the district.”

The district began the year with changes in leadership at every school.

“With four new principals joining the Tornado family, we are eager to see their energy and enthusiasm for student achievement at work, and that coupled with the experience and wisdom of our veteran administrators, we anticipate much needed growth,” Watts said.

The district hired two instructional specialists who are working with teachers to make sure they understand state curriculum standards. In addition, a district-wide Multi- Tiered System of Supports coordinator was added to work alongside schools. MTSS is designed to assure that instruction is being provided to meet the specific needs of all students.

The district is also in the process of purchasing mobile carts that feature Wi-Fi and Chromebooks, so classrooms will have greater access to technology. Over the past several months, the district added 419 devices with immediate plans to purchase 450 more.

In addition to devices, the district purchased new curriculum software that will provide teachers with a pro- gram that puts student data from multiple sources into one easy-to-access dashboard. This will allow teachers quicker reference to student information and assessments to assist in data-driven instruction. “If we increase our instructional rigor and continue reinforcing the state’s curriculum standards, we will see our students move toward proficiency,” Watts said.

To assist with that, the district has hired several consultants to provide support in the areas of science, math and language. At Laurel Middle School and Laurel High School, the principals implemented built-in tutorial time based on individual student’s identified academic weaknesses.

“This is the year for change in the Laurel School District,” Watts said.

— Lacey Walters Slay/Laurel School District Public Information Officer contributed

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