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School Report Card: School systems see some improvement

The Alabama Department of Education released the annual state report cards in late December, assigning grades on a 100-point scale to individual school systems and schools based on performance.

The Demopolis City School System received a ‘B’ overall, scoring 81 points, with Demopolis High School earning a slightly higher score of 84 and Demopolis Middle School earning a 77. U.S. Jones and Westside elementary schools both earned scores of 75.

“I am not a fan of a grading system that is heavily based on one test score, one snapshot in time. However, I am pleased with our grade and continual growth but of course refuse to become complacent,” DCSS Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said.

He continued by pointing out that the Demopolis system scored particularly well in academic growth, just one of the factors used to determine grades.

“Our principals spend countless hours looking at our data and working with their leadership teams to implement strategies based on areas of need. Their hard work is evident when you consider how well we scored in academic growth,” he said.

Chronic absenteeism also remains a focus of DCSS. According to Kallhoff, last year’s data led the school system to hire retired principal Leon Clark to “help us make parents more aware of the importance of attending school and negative effects of truancy.” Clark is also working to strengthen the system’s relationship with the Marengo County Juvenile Court System to combat absenteeism.

Marengo County School System also received a ‘B’ with 88 points. Marengo High School earned an 81, while Sweet Water High School earned a 93 and Amelia L. Johnson High School earned a 66.

According to MCSS Superintendent Luther Hallmark, the system’s overall score “put us in the top 6 percent of all the county school systems in Alabama and only three points away from having the highest score of all county school systems” as well as in the top 14.6 percent of all 137 city and county school systems graded.

Hallmark credits the high score to the hard work of the students, teachers, administrators, board members and support staff of MCSS. He also said members of the school system plan to continue improving, through means such as taking advantage of professional development technology that MCSS offers.

“We want the ultimate grade of an ‘A’, and we believe we can do it by continuing to buy into the process of what it takes to get better.”

The Linden City School System as a whole received 76 points, giving them a ‘C’, with Linden High School, George P. Austin Junior High School and Linden Elementary School earning scores of 76, 72 and 79 respectively.

LCSS Superintendent Timothy Thurman said this was a large improvement from the previous scores for each school, with Linden Elementary among having one of the state’s largest improvement rate percentage-wise jumping from a previous score of 61.

Though Thurman is also not in favor of the single-score system, he said the school system has strategies in place to keep improving, including a partnership with PowerSchools, a technology-based education platform, and more resources for teachers.

“We have a lot of things in possession to continue to help us succeed,” he said.

Ultimately, Thurman credited the teachers for the improving scores saying “it all comes down to our teachers and the great job that they are doing.”

Compared to the statewide score of an 80, DCSS and MCSS both fare better while LCSS falls just a few points short.

Grades are determined through various determining factors including academic achievement, academic growth, graduation rate, college and career readiness and chronic absenteeism.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 9 issue of the Demopolis Times.)