Some schools increase by letter grades

County, city schools fare well on school report cards

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 1/3/19

The Alabama State Department of Education released report cards for all schools in the state last week, which show many schools in Walker County and Jasper City earning higher scores than last year …

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Some schools increase by letter grades

County, city schools fare well on school report cards

Posted

The Alabama State Department of Education released report cards for all schools in the state last week, which show many schools in Walker County and Jasper City earning higher scores than last year — some increasing by a couple of letter grades. 

All county and city schools received either a B or C score, and Memorial Park Elementary School earned the highest letter grade of 21 schools in Walker County's borders — an 88. Other schools came close, including T.R. Simmons Elementary, Jasper High and Cordova Elementary, all getting a grade of 87.

In terms of a district breakdown, all five schools in Jasper City earned a B score. Memorial Park Elementary's score did fall from a 97 to an 88, but the school still received the highest grade in all of Walker County. 

Dr. Ann Jackson, superintendent for Jasper City Schools, said it is important to consider the 2016-17 score at Memorial Park was representative of many grade levels tested. Due to the school district's recent reconfiguration which changed Memorial Park to a second- and third-grade only school, only the test scores of third graders were factored into the school's overall score.

Scantron's math and reading assessment was used for testing students in Grades 3-8, while a Scantron test for proficiency in science was used for fifth- and seventh-graders. Students in 11th-grade were tested in English, math and science using the ACT College Entrance Exam.

All of the test scores were ultimately used in giving each school a letter grade, along with a number of other factors.

"Fourth, fifth and sixth, all of those grade levels went up. Memorial Park was the only school that had one grade — third — take the test. That's not a true measure to say Memorial Park went down," Jackson said.  

Each Jasper City school made significant jumps in their report card score. T.R. Simmons and Maddox Intermediate, in particular, went from having C scores to high B scores.

Jasper City Schools, overall, saw a district increase in their grade from an 84 to an 85. 

"We are very pleased with our scores," Jasper City Schools Director of Accountability Programs and Support Services Rita Pilling said. "All of our schools have B's. We won't be satisfied until we have A's, but we are pleased with progress."

Pilling said the district jumped from 67 to 72 percent in academic achievement and saw gains in reading, English and math. 

Some county schools show great improvement

Cordova Elementary had the highest grade in Walker County Schools, an 87. Last year, Cordova Elementary had a 92, the second highest score of all schools in the county. 

Parrish Elementary made a big leap in their overall score, jumping from a 71 to an 86 —  the second highest score in Walker County Schools. 

Other schools in the county also made significant leaps in their overall grade.

Curry High made the greatest improvement, jumping from a 65 to an 85 — two letter grades. Carbon Hill High School also jumped two letter grades from a 65 to an 81.

"The thing was was so impressive about Curry High and Carbon Hill High was on their academic growth in reading and English," Walker County Schools Superintendent-elect Dr. Joel Hagood said. "For reading, English and math at Curry High School, they scored 100 percent on those in academic growth, and Carbon Hill High got 100 percent academic growth in reading and English. That's just phenomenal."

Hagood said he was also impressed with the gains by Parrish Elementary and Dora High. 

Dora gained four points in their grade from a 74 to a 78, and Hagood said the school made gains in many academic areas.

"That's just a testimony to those faculty and administration on a job well done," Hagood said. 

Overall seven schools in the Walker County district saw an increase in their grade, and nine had a score decrease, typically anywhere from two to five points.

Sumiton Middle School had the lowest score in the district, a 70.

"We did have a few go down a couple of notches, but there weren't any major decreases. We did have some vast increases," Hagood said.  

Walker County Schools made a slight drop in their overall district score, from a 79.1 to a 78.4.

Hagood and Jackson said it continues to be difficult to measure the validity of report card data released from the state Department of Education. For instance, the newly-released report card uses Scantron data in determining academic achievement, while data from 2016-17 was compiled using ACT Aspire data — the then-method of testing.

Data parameters change yearly as well, along with the percentage each category counts toward overall scores.

The grade of each school isn't only based on test scores that measure academic achievement. Grades are also given by factoring in academic growth and attendance.

Important to note, academic growth was not broken down on the state Department of Education's website.

As a new addition to the 2017-18 scoring parameters, schools were also measured based on student proficiency in English. Schools with 20 or more students learning the English language were scored with the newly added parameter.

"The thing that we think bumped us down is that last year they counted our English language learners. Those students couldn't take the test in their native language," Jackson said.

For schools with a 12th-grade, graduation rates and college career readiness were also factors in the overall score.

Scores from students who take the Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA) — offered for students who can't participate in general assessments — were also factored in each school's grade.

"These report cards are just a snapshot, but there's a lot of other measures to determine the success of a school," Hagood said. 

Jackson concurred.

"It's just a snapshot," she said. "This is just one little piece of the puzzle that actually takes place in our schools day in and day out."

The state of Alabama's overall grade was an 80.

To see the grade for all Jasper City and Walker County schools, see the table accompanying this story.