State Testing Underway At Water Valley Schools
By David Howell
This week marks the second round of state testing for the Water Valley School District.
Last week, high school students – ninth grade thru twelfth – were tested on the Mississippi Curriculum Test’s (MCT) division of Subject Area, including Biology I, English II, U.S. History, and Algebra I.
This week, starting Tuesday May 1, the MCT is being adminstering through Thursday to second grade through eighth, according to Water Valley School District Superintendent Sammy Higdon.
The tests are crucial to any school district, as the school’s rating is derived from test scores. Both Davidson Elementary School and the Water Valley High School have been rated as a Level 5 school for the past two years.
Level 5 is the highest rating a school can receive.
Student test scores will be available for school officials by late June or early July. The rating level for the 2006-2007 school year will be determined by the Mississippi Department of Education in the later part of July or first of August based on these test schools, according to Higdon. The rating will not become public until October.
“Our students have been working very hard, and I think they will do well,” Higdon said in regards to the testing.
“As long as all your schools are rated a Level 4 or 5, you are getting the bang for the dollar,” Higdon added.
The federally mandated testing was implemented five years ago following President George W. Bush’s landmark education law, dubbed No Child Left Behind. The law, one of the president’s few bipartisan successes, was intended to improve the basic skills of the nation’s public school children.
Higdon has said that the criteria for obtaining a Level 5 rating is increasing each year, thus making it tougher for schools to achieve the highest rating.
Higdon, in recent Herald interviews, has hammered home how crucial of a time the WV School District is currently in.
The district has seen a consistent (albeit slow) decline in enrollment numbers over the past 20 years – losing near to 200 students in that frame.
The kicker to this is as student body numbers decline, so does state funding. If the district loses 10 students for the next school year (which is a rough average of past years), it also loses $45,000.
The Level 5 success Higdon has overseen has whet his appetite in terms of goals.
“The elementary school is a prime candidate to be a National Blue Ribbon School,” added Higdon. This distinction honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their states or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.
Apart from academic goals, the superintendent has described his hopes of improvements to the physical appearance of the district’s two schools (“We need to be excellent in everything”) and to shift the high school’s course schedule from the current seven-period day, into a “4-by-4.”
“This would allow us to offer more courses for our students,” Higdon said.