PETAL, MS (WDAM) - New data from the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) shows broad gaps in student proficiency levels of Mississippi students.
Statewide, the largest gap is between black and white students, with black students scoring about 29 percentage points lower than their white counterparts. Poorer students score 26.5 percentage points lower than wealthier students, and students with disabilities are 24.5 percentage points behind those without.
The biggest gaps often happen in high performing school districts.
"The higher you are in proficiency, such as Petal, you are going to have a higher gap," said Matt Dillon, superintendent of Petal Schools. "Typically, just based on a proficiencies."
Narrower gaps happen in D and F ranked districts because all students are generally performing poorly. The lowest performing students in a higher ranked district could still be scoring higher than those in a failing district.
"We look at it holistically," said Andy Schoggin, chief operations officer for Petal Schools. "Obviously, these are large numbers that represent an entire district, but what really happens and the work really comes in where we drill down and look at it individually at the school level. I think the great things our principals do and our teachers do is realize these are not just numbers. They represent kids, and what we try to do is the best for each kid."
Petal's gap for students with disabilities was larger than the state average, with those students scoring 41.1 percentage points behind students without, but Dillon said the district's graduation for those students tied for the third highest in the state.
"A lot of districts if you'll look, that's a tough area," Dillon said. "I'm very proud to say we're tied for the third highest graduation rate with special education students. We're very proud of that because our teachers do an excellent job of working with out students. Our parents are right there a part of that process, and we want them to make sure they have those same opportunities as all of our students across this district."
Schoggin said, "One of the things we did well, obviously, was students with disabilities. Obviously having individualized education plans, we have teachers who really work those. Our graduation rate was exceptional with those students, however we want to continue to overcome that gap, and get those students to that proficient level, get them successful."
Schoggin and Dillon said Petal is focusing across the district on those students who are closest to scoring as proficient.
"One of the things that we have is a large percentage of our students who are just on the cusp of that proficiency," Schoggin said. "So those are our targets. not necessarily a specific subgroup, but all those students who aren't at proficiency."
Dillon said, "We're really honing in right now to provide extra practice and remediation and also tailoring our lesson plans at the classroom level to help those students ultimately over that threshold. I think we have a good game plan. Of course, we can alter that as needed if we see any patterns or any kind of glaring issues or glaring percentages that stand out to us. We are going to look at this data, kind of dive a little bit deeper, see if we see anything that stands out to us, and maybe what our new approach might be if there's something there."