The 2014-2015 school year was certainly one of challenges for educators across the state. It was the first year that schools were assessed on the Common Core State Standards. How students were to be assessed was fairly unknown to teachers as Mississippi participated in PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments in the Fall of 2014 for high school fall block courses and the Spring of 2015 for block high school courses and grades 3-8 English- Language Arts and Math. Because of the delay in scoring of PARCC assessments, school districts have just recently received the results. For the Union County School District, the results are impressive, exceptional in fact.
The high school scores place the Union County School District among the best in the state. PARCC set five performance levels to categorize students’ mastery of standards. Level 4 indicates a student met expectations of the standards; level 5 indication would mean the student exceeded expectations of the standards. East Union Attendance Center had 84.2% of English II students score a level 4 or 5, placing them first in the entire state in this subject area. English teacher Amanda Moore attributes the success to her students. “My babies worked extremely hard daily. The accomplishment is all theirs. I am so proud of them!”
East Union was not the only bright spot in English II. West Union, Myrtle and Ingomar each placed in the top thirty schools in the state at numbers 8, 14, and 27 respectively. Algebra I was also a positive for the Union County School District. West Union Attendance Center 61.95% of students scoring a 4 or 5 placing them 10th among schools that included 9th grades. Likewise, East Union with 51.3% placed 23rd , Myrtle with 50% finishing at 29th, and Ingomar had 48.4% for 31st place. Superintendent Ken Basil said, “Certainly we are proud of the PARCC results.The Union County School District wants to be the best in the state. The district has the dedicated faculties and staff to achieve success, no matter what is expected from them.”
Equally as exciting as the high school scores, Union County also finished among the best of the state in grades 3-8 for English Language Arts and Math. Union County finished in the top three school districts in 3rd grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade ELA. Ingomar Attendance Center had 59.1% of 3rd graders as well as 60.9% of 6th graders scoring a level 4 or 5, placing them 11th in the state in each category. East Union (#18), West Union (#26) and Myrtle (#42) helped placed the district 2nd in the state in 3rd grade ELA. In addition to Ingomar’s 11th place finish, West Union (#21), East Union (#23) and Myrtle (#64) also placed the Union County School District second in the state. 7th grade was particularly strong for Union County. Myrtle Attendance Center had 59% scoring the two highest categories placing them 10th in the state. East Union with 58.8% was right behind finishing 11th, Ingomar with 57.4% placing 14th, and West Union with 52.6% was 19th. In another strong district showing, 8th grade scores were impressive, East Union placed 11th, Ingomar 12th, Myrtle 15th, and West Union 31st, placing Union County second in the state among some 140 school districts.
With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, math scores were expected to drop throughout the state. However, the students in the Union County School District exceeded expectations. Both 3rd and 8th grade math scores were in the top five in the state. Ingomar 3rd grade had 61.3% of students scoring in the top two categories, placing them 29th in the state, followed by East Union (31st), West Union (63rd), and Myrtle (95th).
In 8th grade East Union placed 10th having 56.4% scoring at or above expectation. They were followed closely by West Union with 54.7% for 11th place, Myrtle with 43.2% for 33rd place, and Ingomar with 31.1%. “I would like to attribute the success of PARCC to our teachers who are so dedicated. They seem to excel at any task assigned to them,” said Windy Faulkner, Assistant Superintendent. “The Common Core Standards in math were very challenging and extremely different from what teachers have taught in the past. I am proud to say our teachers put forth a lot of effort in understanding and teaching the standards. As a district, we will work to correct our weak areas, but I am so proud of our schools!”
Teachers are again faced with unknown curriculum and assessment measures for this school year as the Mississippi Department of Education has adopted the Mississippi Standards for College and Career Readiness and terminated the testing contract with PARCC. Questar is the the testing company that has been contracted to assess the new standards for the 2015-2016 school year. However, based on the 2014-2015 results, the students and teachers of the Union County School District prove that they will continue to be one of the best school districts in the state of Mississippi.
*Written by Sara Johnson