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Superintendents weigh in on school report card scores

The Alabama Department of Education recently released the School Report Cards, detailing each school systems’ and public schools’ standings for the 2018-2019. The grades are conceptualized on a 100-point, A-F scale and are based on the indicators academic achievement, academic growth chronic absenteeism and, when applicable, college and career readiness, graduation rates and progress in English language proficiency.

Demopolis City Schools

Demopolis City Schools System as a whole received an 80 (B) with Demopolis High School, Demopolis Middle School, U.S. Jones Elementary School and Westside Elementary School receiving an 81 (B), 71 (C), 77 (C), and 77 (C) respectively.

“I was happy to see the chronic absenteeism rates decreasing at each school. However, we have a lot of work to do in the upper elementary and middle school grades with mathematics,” DCSS Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said.

Despite the positive scores and the work ahead, Kallhoff also shared that he doesn’t feel the report cards are an adequate assessment of the schools.

“Our teachers are working hard and wear multiple hats. Unfortunately this report card only measures a fraction of what we do in public education. I am optimistic that one day there will be an equitable instrument that truly measures the robust work that takes place in Alabama’s schools,” he said.

Marengo County Schools

The Marengo County School System, encompassing A.L. Johnson, Sweet Water and Marengo high schools, earned an 87 (B) overall. MCSS Superintendent Luke Hallmark said MCSS scored the second highest in the state.

SWHS earned the highest score in the county with a 91 (A) and has continued to earn an ‘A’ for each of the three years that the school report card has been in place.

“They continue to work hard and continue to reach out to the community and students,” Hallmark said.

MSH earned a 75 (C) and ALJ earned a 69 (D).

Kathy Pritchett, federal programs coordinator and special education coordinator for the district, explained that ALJ’s score was in part due to the small, 15-student senior class. Because less than 20 high schoolers were enrolled at ALJ in 2018-19, their scores in college and career readiness and graduation rates were not counted separately and were instead added to other indicators. Pritchett said that had those indicators been counted fully, ALJ would have earned a high ‘C’.

According to Hallmark, one of the largest improvements that the school system saw was in chronic absenteeism. Throughout the district, 11 percent of students were chronically absent for 2018-19, which dropped seven percent from last year.

Hallmark attributed the improvement to communicating with parents of students and to teachers connecting with students. There is also a liaison at each school that works to improve chronic absenteeism.

Hallmark plans to continue improving all indicators, particularly graduation rates and all indicators related to academic proficiency, and he said the success of the schools is a team effort from all faculty and staff, including teachers, principals, maintenance workers, bus drivers and cafeteria staff.

“It’s a team effort, because kids come to school, and they don’t perform as well if they’re hungry,” he said.

Linden City Schools

Linden City Schools System received a 77 (C) overall, with Linden High School, George P. Austin Junior High School and Linden Elementary School earning a 74 (C), 70 (C) and a 73 (C) respectively.

During the school board’s recent meeting, members discussed the scores and ways to improve them.

LCSS Superintendent Dr. Timothy Thurman said that the schools were doing well with the resources available. The academic growth scores for each school and the system as a whole were high as well, with the system and GPA earning a 92 (A) and a 97 (A) respectively. The academic growth scores at LHS and LES were not far behind with LHS earning an 86 (B) and LES an 89 (B).

Thurman also said the school system would focus on parent involvement and absenteeism/tardiness to increase scores for the next report card.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the grade,” Thurman said at the meeting, adding that “I want to get a ‘B’, especially at the district level.”

LHS and GPA were also among 74 “failing schools” in the state listed by the Department of Education. The designation is based on the lowest six percent of schools based on student’s scores on standardized tests for reading and math.

Students that attend a school included on the list may choose be enrolled at another qualifying school outside of the resident school district.

The districts’ overall scores are mostly on par or higher than the state’s score of an 84 (B).

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, November 6 issue of the Demopolis Times.)