Just about 45% of the third-graders at Charleston Elementary School have tested well enough on a state-mandated assessment to advance to fourth grade.
Under Mississippi's Literacy-Based Promotion Act, all third-grade students are required to demonstrate that they are ready for fourth grade by being able to read proficiently on grade level. Those who do not meet that plateau may be held back instead of promoted.
East Tallahatchie School District Superintendent Johnnie Vick told the ETSD Board of Trustees meeting Thursday night that 44.7% of the district's 47 third-graders recently passed the assessment on their first try.
He added that the remaining 55.3% of third-graders retook the so-called third grade "reading gate" appraisal of their reading skills on May 11.
When that second batch of results come back, the superintendent said any third-graders still not measuring up to state standards for third-grade reading will have a third and final opportunity, between June 20 and July 8, to take the assessment.
"Hopefully, they won't need it," Vick noted.
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) does make an exception, called the Good Cause Exemption, which would allow a third-grader not passing the assessment to advance if they are classified as an English language learner and have had less than two years of instruction in an English language program.
"We do have some third-graders that will qualify for the Good Cause Exemption," said Vick.
"We're not going to discuss those right now, though," he noted. "Our main focus is to get those babies ready to move to the fourth grade. So, once we get these results back, we will continue to remediate, teach and get them ready for that next phase, if needed."
State assessments also have been ongoing for fourth-graders at Charleston Elementary School, as well as students at Charleston Middle School and Charleston High School. Vick said those results are expected back during the month of June.
"Those are the total results that will determine our [state] accountability rating for the upcoming school year," he explained. "As all of you know, our goal is to move to the next accountability level. For us, the East Tallahatchie School District, that would be a D or a C. That's what we're striving to do."
In 2019, for a second straight year, ETSD graded F in state accountability ratings. Individually, both Charleston Elementary and Charleston Middle schools likewise were F-rated. Charleston High was a D.
After three straight years as a failing district, the state can swoop in and take control of school operations at the local level.
Due to COVID-19, MDE ruled that 2020 and 2021 standardized state tests results would not officially count, granting a reprieve to districts, like ETSD, that were on the bubble.
During this 2021-22 school session, however, state tests and other factors, such as meeting state accreditation standards for schools, will once again be used to assign a binding accountability rating.
In other comments by Vick:
» He said the district is continuing preparations for May 20 commencement exercises at Charleston High School. This year, the school has 56 candidates for graduation.
"We ordered some yard signs for all of our seniors," Vick said. The yard signs feature the photo and name of each senior.
"They'll be here Monday morning and we'll put those out in front of the auditorium sometime next week," he noted. "But as of right now, everything is complete as far as our seniors."
» Vick said due to some missed days caused by spring storms and other issues, the district was forced to make adjustments to its academic calendar. As a result, he said the last day for students will be May 25, while the last day for faculty and staff will be May 27.
State law requires Mississippi schools to operate 180 days each school year.
» The district will again conduct a summer enrichment program at the elementary and middle schools, as well as credit recovery sessions for high school students who may need it, Vick said.
He said the summer program will run from June 6-30, while the Save the Children program will run June 6-14.
While these are ongoing, Vick said the district will be operating its usual summer feeding program for children, stressing that the program "is not just open for our students, it is open for the community: every child up to age 18, whether they are a student or not."
The federally-funded Summer Food Service Program is designed to ensure that children continue to get nutritious meals when school is not in session by providing free meals to kids and teens in low-income areas.
The program is not exclusive, Vick said, citing one example.
"If you have somebody visiting from Chicago or whatever, and they fall within that age range, they can come and take part in this summer feeding program," he noted.
Vick said the district soon will work to spread the word about the feeding program "so that the community will know that it's not just [for] our East Tallahatchie School District students."