As Tim Wilder takes the reins as South Panola’s Superintendent of Schools, he is preparing students, parents, teachers and administrators to expect the big changes coming in education.
“In my 25 years, I have never observed the amount of change in education that is going to take place over the next three years,” Wilder said Tuesday, speaking at the Batesville Rotary Club.
The Common Core State Standards curriculum that has been adopted by 40 states including Mississippi “is a very rigorous curriculum; one much more so than what we have now,” Wilder said.
As an example, “most of what’s being taught currently in sixth grade math will be taught in fifth grade and some even in fourth grade,” he said.
Common Core State Standards will start being phased in this year and are expected to be fully implemented by the 2015-2016 school year.
Third grade literacy
By the 2014-’15 school year, all Mississippi third grade students will take a literacy test, Wilder said, citing Gov. Phil Bryant’s Reading Initiative legislation passed last spring that establishes a Third Grade Gateway.
“That just simply means … that in ‘14-’15, all third grade students will take a literacy test,” Wilder said. “If they can’t read on grade level at the end of the third grade, they are retained in the third grade.”
The new state legislation also requires, starting in the 2014-’15, periodic testing of students in kindergarten through the second grade.
“If the student does not perform … the district must notify the parents in writing and also notify the parents on what interventions we’re going to take as a school to bring their child up to grade level on reading,” the SP superintendent said.
“The trend is for much elevated accountability, particularly in the lower grades.”
The Mississippi Statewide Teacher Appraisal Rubric (M-STAR) will bring changes statewide in the 2014 -’15 academic year in evaluations for teachers, principals and administrators, he said. “All teachers will be evaluated using the same instrument,” Wilder said. “Fifty percent of that evaluation will be based on their students’ academic performance.”
M-STAR will introduce a similar statewide uniform evaluation for school principals starting this year, he said. “Seventy percent of their evaluation will be based on student performance academically in their building.”
Likewise, evaluation of administrators will be based whether schools meet goals set by the school board, he said. “My evaluation is based on whether we meet those goals or not, and those goals have to be, primarily, academic performance of the students.”
Schools graded A-F
“Starting with this coming school year, you’ll have all schools simply receive either an A, B, C, D or F,” Wilder continued, describing the new statewide academic accountability model.
Components used to determine the school grades include student scores on math, language arts, history and biology, he said. Measurable progress in students who score in the bottom 25 percent of academics is another component. “What is the percentage of those students who meet growth for the academic year?” he said.
The number of students taking advanced placement and dual enrollment courses will also be considered in determining a school’s grade as will the school’s graduation rate, Wilder said.
“Where in the past, the state has ignored the upper level courses, now they are putting that in as part of their accountability,” he said. “That will be a part of how we’re graded as a school, to offer as many of those courses and to involve as many students in those AP courses and dual enrollment as possible.”
The final component in a school’s grade will be college readiness, Superintendent Wilder said.
“Students will be required to take the ACT,” he said, probably starting in the 2014-’15 school year. An ACT score of 21 or above in math and 18 or above in English would indicate that a student is college or career ready.
“If they’re not considered college and career ready, then obviously we’ve got issues as a school district,” Wilder continued.
Juniors whose scores indicate readiness should be placed in AP or dual enrollment classes.
“I think this college and career readiness component gives us an opportunity to make the senior year meaningful,” said Wilder, who described the senior year as often “wasted.”
For seniors who have not proved college or career readiness with satisfactory scores, the district needs to offer remedial courses so that, “when they get to college they do not have to pay to what amounts to remediation courses they receive no credit for.”
21 hours college credit
Likewise, seniors whose scores prove readiness should be offered courses “so that when they leave their senior year, the have a significant amount of college hours toward college credit,” Wilder said. The superintendent cited a partnership between Rankin County schools and Hinds Community College. “Their seniors can have 21 hours of college credit by the time they graduate high school. That’s a big benefit to them and their parents as they enter their freshman year.”
“We face those initiatives and challenges and accountability not as problems but as opportunities for our students,” Wilder said. “We’ll take all of these changes … and we’ll make it work to where our students are better off because of it.”