Principals review test scores

Haleyville Middle School teacher Kelly Rushing stresses to students the importance of being in school, as Principal Bo Wilcoxson and Assistant Principal Emily Faulkner look on in support. Students, from left, Brant Vickery, Shawn McKinney, Blake Arnett, Bradford Hollimon, Will Sutherland, Het Patel, Heet Patel, Sage Morga and Kiah Bell.

HALEYVILLE      -  One of the biggest goals educators at Haleyville City Schools want to tackle this school year is reducing student chronic absences, a factor affecting test scores.
Haleyville’s middle and high school principals presented facts and figures in a PowerPoint presentation to the Haleyville Board of Education during the board’s July  24, work session held at the school’s central office.  Although Haleyville Elementary School Principal Tammy Hatton did not discuss attendance in-depth at that meeting, she has, in earlier articles in the Alabamian, stressed the value of in-person instruction and the need for children to be in class.
HMS Principal Bo Wilcoxson and Assistant Principal Emily Faulkner told board members at the work session that chronic absenteeism--defined as when students miss 18 or more days for any reason--is a major problem school officiated plan to tackle  with some new programs and incentives this school year.
HHS Principal Davey Reed, joined by Assistant Principal Candy Garner, also stressed incentives to lower these chronic absences in an overall plan to improve not only overall attendance, but behavioral issues.
Wilcoxson said that 28 of the total 346 student population at HMS were considered chronically absent.  Thirteen of those students were eighth graders.
“Percentage wise, we had eight percent of our students chronically absent,” he said. “We want that number (down) because if you are not at school, you are not learning.
“There is a statistic out there that tells us that for two days missed (per month), it’s 18 to 20 days missed in a year, and these students fall so far behind,” Wilcoxson pointed out. “If they miss two days, then they come back and they have to make up for the two days they missed.  Plus they are going to miss some more work because they are trying to catch up for what they missed.  It’s just awful.”
Wilcoxson illustrated that, if a child is injured and has an extended hospital stay and misses 18 or more days, that student is considered chronically absent.
“There is no unexcused or excused,” he noted. “It’s just they are absent, and that is tough on us.”
Some students, Wilcoxson continued, are not made to come to school by their parents or guardians.
“That’s the ones we have got to fix,” he stressed.  
Faulkner stressed some key action steps to be taken toward improving attendance.
“We are going to be calling them up or going to see them at three (absences),” Faulkner added, “and make sure they understand the importance attendance gives them. If the kid is not there, he can’t learn.”
Such attendance boosting incentives include coins for the best grade level attendance, popcorn or ice cream and nine-week celebrations for students who have met attendance goals.

Key testing data shows lower
proficiency rates

Wilcoxson also cited  key testing data from the ACAP (Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program) test, based on May, 2023, scores.
The scoring was divided into two components, one ELA or English Language Arts, the other being math, which was broken down for each grade level 6-8 at the middle school.
The data showed that 44 percent of 6th graders were proficient in ELA with a growth rate of 98 percent, compared to 7th grade ELA at a 55 percent proficient rate and a growth rate of 91 percent; and 8th grade at 56 percent proficiency rate with a growth rate of 96 percent.
“One thing we are proud of, as you can see, is our growth,” Wilcoxson pointed out. “The growth is measured from the 5th graders when they took the ACAP  (to) when they were 6th graders and took the ACAP.”
Speaking of growth rates for the ELA portion of the ACAP average 95 percent, Wilcoxson stressed, “That’s a good number for us. We’re really proud of that number.”
On the math portion of ACAP, 6th grade students were 48 percent proficient with a 97 percent growth rate, compared to 7th grade at 30 percent proficiency with a 95 percent growth rate and 8th grade was 19 percent proficient with a 91 percent growth rate.
“Eighth grade math is definitely something we are not proud of,” Wilcoxson pointed out. “That is where we are definitely going to get our work done.”
“If we look at the growth (of math versus ELA), the same thing goes,” added Wilcoxson. “That tells us our teachers are teaching, and our students are learning in their growth.”

Need better
proficiency rates

Despite the higher growth rates, educators are desiring an ACAP proficiency rate of at least  50 percent, Wilcoxson emphasized.
“Seventh grade math, as you can see, the proficiency wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be, at 30 percent,” he added. “But the growth was at 95 percent, so we can definitely see growth.
“As a school, we believe we are going to get 100 percent growth this year, and that is one thing we’re excited about,” stressed Wilcoxson.
“What would you attribute the 7th and 8th grade math ACAP proficiency being down so low?” board member Brian Vickery asked Wilcoxson.
“The curriculum is such a great change from 6th grade to 7th grade,” responded Wilcoxson. “Eighth grade, is just a tougher curriculum for that maturity level.  We have an idea we are going to try this year for our 7th grade, and we hope it carries on over to 8th.
“For the last two years, our 6th grade students have had two maths. They go to math, then they go to support math/STEAM.”
Support math will include concepts under STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
This year, 6th graders will follow this protocol followed by 7th grade, he explained, adding that each grade level will be going to two math classes per day.
As of now, 8th grade students will continue with one math class, but there will be two years of two maths leading up to that grade level, Wilcoxson stated.
“We hope this will allow them to have a double dose of math,” he said.
Faulkner noted a similar process would be followed for ELA and reading.
Programs from learning grammar and sentence structure are being expanded to include more small group reading and reading intervention, Faulkner explained.
“Another thing I want us to improve on is student behavior,” continued Wilcoxson.
Last year, around the middle of February, middle school students, “forgot they were at school,” he said. “We are going to be working on that some next year.”
The last two periods at the middle school will be five to 10 minutes longer after the iReady period was removed so math and reading teachers will responsible for the iReady scores, Wilcoxson explained.
Figures reflecting this past February showed HMS student enrollment at 351, including 108 in the 8th grade, 127 in the 7th grade and 116 in the 6th grade.
Staff and faculty number 45, with the student population of English Language learners at 31 and 56 students in special education.
“We expect our EL population to increase going into next year, without a doubt,” Wilcoxson stated.

 High school

Reed then addressed the board with attendance concerns, citing that the growth rate comes between the 10th and 11th grades, with achievement coming  from 11th grade with the ACT test.
College and Career Readiness comes from 9th through the 12th grades, Reed added.
“Here’s where we’re losing on attendance,” Reed then spoke out, “a total of 79 chronically absent.”
A breakdown by grade level showed 20 of 116 9th graders chronically absent, followed by 18 of 131 10th graders; 15 of 105 11th graders and 26 of 119 12th graders.
“As anyone would figure, your oldest kids are going to be absent the most,” Reed pointed out. “But we are kind of average throughout.
The high school is implementing what Reed called a restorative practice to reduce these chronic absences.
“Restorative practice is about giving kids a choice,” Reed stated.
“Their choice is to come to school through the week and, if they can’t do that, we are going to have Saturday school for them,” Reed pointed out.
“Two days of Saturday equals one day of school,” he added. “I don’t think momma or daddy is going to like that.”
At the beginning of every year, high school students take a practice ACT test called TruScore. The state department of education has chosen the ACT as the measure of success, Reed emphasized.
The ACT is also a requirement for college admission and scholarships. The high school uses 20 minutes of class time to practice written ACT skills, as well as a program called IXL to strengthen in-class instruction, Reed indicated.
“We expect all college-bound juniors to  take the ACT every time it is offered, until Christmas of their senior year,” Reed noted. “We currently offer free tutoring, boot camp and online help to provide alternative opportunities for instruction.”
High school test scores from the ACT were compared over the last 10 years,  based on state benchmark scores being 18 in English, 22 in math, 22 in reading and 23 in science.
ACT scores averaged from 2014 at HCS showed 67 percent in English, 14 percent in math, 33 percent in reading and 25 percent in science meeting benchmarks. This was compared to the same subjects for 2023, showing 47 percent in English, 16 percent in math, 32 percent reading and 16 percent in science, Reed told board members.
The Class of 2022 was considered the high group with 50 percent in English, 18 percent in math, 38 percent in reading and 22 percent in science.
High school goals include increasing the benchmark scores, according to Reed.
“Our benchmark is what gets our achievement up.  That will increase student achievement,” said Reed.



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