HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public Schools Board of Trustees reviewed their district's state test scores Tuesday and heard Interim Superintendent Robert Williams' plan to help boost scores.
"I've requested ofr the Mississippi Department of Education to actually come to our district and do a training on the new accountability model," Williams said. "Also assist us with unpacking our student data as it relates to the new growth model and how students will assessed."
Williams said he's asked J.P. Beaudoin, Chief of Research and Development for the Mississippi Department of Education, to help the district staff better understand the data.
"We want him to come in, assist our central office staff as well as our principals with looking at our student data, breaking down that student data for us based off of the new accountability cut scores and proficiency scales," Williams said. "Just an understanding of the data. I do know that they (MDE) went to some districts to provide that same training on the coast and even one of our neighboring districts, and each of those superintendents really expressed how everyone felt better about know what the targets are, having a better understanding."
Board President Marcus Cathey said he likes the idea of extra instruction coming straight from the state.
"I thought it was a grand idea that our superintendent offered to actually invite them here to our district to help our staff and our team wrap their minds around this new accountability model," Cathey said.
Williams said it's an effort to better understand the requirements to improve student learning and performance.
"I've challenged the principals," Williams said. "We're going to compete. We're going to compete within the district. We're also going to identify schools outside of the district we're going to compete with. We want to make sure that we're working to move all of our students, that we're working to move our students to proficiency. I've challenged that what college and career readiness will mean in the Hattiesburg Public School District is that all of our students when they graduate, they have one of three choices. First, continued education at institution of higher learning of their choice. In order to do that, they need an 18 or higher on the ACT. For our higher fliers, we encourage them to make a 30 or above. Secondly, enlist in a branch of service fo their choice, but in order to do that, you must take the ASVAB and score well-enough on the ASVAB to make the choice that you want to have. Then finally, be gainfully employed in a career or job of their choice to where they not only can take care of themselves, but their family as well. So that's what we're trying to do."
Williams said that starts with their youngest learners. Right now, he said only 29 percent of preschool students in the district are testing as kindergarten ready.
"Well, yeah, I was a little shocked by that," Cathey said. "His (Williams) plan (is) to actually work with day care providers to make sure there's more awareness to our parents and to those centers on the expectations and needs that we expect for those preschoolers to have when they start kindergarten."
Williams also noted individualized student instruction that will be implemented by the district's contract with Bailey Education Group and listed several other areas, like reexamining school district structure and streamlining the number of programs in schools, to help improve student proficiency. However, Williams added that growth is a big factor in MDE's new ranking, and said that is already an area where the district excels.
"We want to focus on all students," he said. "In our district, we do need to raise our proficiency scores, but we do a great job of moving our students in growth. Looking at our kindergarten readiness data, we saw that 29 percent of our students are kindergarten ready. So we do a good job of moving that number up by third grade to having our third grade gate a passing score. So we're looking at all of that."
Williams said he isn't certain HPSD will receive training from MDE, but said the district "is on the list." He said he plans to follow up with Beaudoin and MDE about if and when he will be in Hattiesburg.