Schools Challenged to Make the Grade

Glenda Marshall's accelerated English students will take state mandated tests this spring. Students in third through eighth grades, and high school students take the tests in English, math, science and history. In a new accountability program that starts next year, the overall scores will determine what grade the state education department gives to each individual school. "They'll be tested on writing and again just other multiple choice items and I think the students will be ready," says Marshall.

Gulfport's school superintendent says the objective of school accountability is to force a poor performing school to do just as well as the other schools in the same district. "It's gonna put pressure on school districts, school boards, school superintendents to make sure every school has the resources it needs to be successful," says Hicks.  That means putting good teachers in low performing schools. "Whereas in the past in a lot of school districts really good teachers steered away from schools that didn't have the good reputation."

Harrison County's school superintendent says the accountability concept identifies a school's strong points and gives them a year to improve weak areas.  Henry Arledge says, "And if they do not do that then you have to come in and give staff development. They have to be held accountable and then of course it goes to the teacher, the principal, the superintendent, the school board, all of us have to be held accountable for student achievement." Arledge says if the state gives the new program a chance, he thinks the end result will be better grades and higher student achievement.

Hicks says if a school performs low three years in a row, the school board has to remove the principal and if it doesn't, the state can remove the board and the superintendent.