Phenix City, Russell County and Lee County schools have improved their performance on the Alabama Report Card.
Comparing the scores on the 100-point scale from last year to this year:
- Phenix City improved by 12 points to 90 — the biggest gain in the state — and soared from a C to an A.
- Russell County improved by 4 points to 83 and moved up from a C to a B.
- Lee County improved by 3 points to 82 and moved up from a C to a B.
- Alabama improved by 4 points to 84 and remained at a B.
This is the third year the Alabama State Department of Education’s report card has assigned a score and a letter grade to its public schools and school systems, based on their performance on standardized tests and other measurements in these categories:
- Academic achievement
- Academic growth
- Graduation rate
- College and career readiness
- Chronic absenteeism.
Not only did each of Phenix City’s 11 schools increase their overall score, but they improved in every category for which they were eligible, 38 out of 38. And eight of them improved their overall score by double digits.
All of which made Phenix City one of only 26 school systems among 138 in the state to get an “A” this year.
That ranking is even more impressive when considering Phenix City’s relatively high poverty rate, superintendent Randy Wilkes said during Friday’s news conference.
Among the school systems with a higher score than the 90 that Phenix City received, their percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch is 31%, Wilkes said. Phenix City’s rate is more than double at 68%.
“No system that ranked ahead of us had a greater poverty rate,” he said.
Westview Elementary made the most improvement of any local school on the Alabama Report Card, zooming up 16 points to an 85.
“We see the results with our kids coming home with the grades they have and the progress they make,” Jennifer Cummings, the PTA president at Westview, told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview.
Cummings also has a child at Central High School. They moved to Phenix City 2½ years ago when her husband was stationed at Fort Benning. Although he retired from the Army this year, they chose to stay in Phenix City, and the schools were “a big part” of that decision.
“The teachers here, they go above and beyond for these kids,” Cummings said. “… They treat these kids like their own children.”
Her family has lived in four states, and each school system has its strength, she said, “but this is the one where I truly feel like my kids are at home.”
Wilkes, who was named Alabama Superintendent of the Year in 2018, choked up as he announced this year’s remarkable results.
“It took everybody to get that done,” he said.
After the news conference, Wilkes told the Ledger-Enquirer that each student was given an individual goal to reach on the state assessment.
“They were so fired up going into that test thinking they had a chance to really show progress,” he said. “… For the kids to take ownership of their own learning was a tremendous part of the reason for this success.”
Wilkes has hired new principals at seven of the system’s 11 schools since he arrived in 2014.
“The most important job that I have is to hire effective principals,” he said.
Wilkes also credits:
- The school system’s report cards becoming more specific about the areas students need to improve.
- The staff’s increased professional learning.
- The Innovative ways to enhance curriculum and instruction, such as the 2016 opening of the $3 million Dyer Family STEM Center for science, technology, engineering and math.
The next step, Wilkes said, is to ensure every child performs at least on grade level. To get there, he said, the system is using more tiers of reading instruction based on research, and teacher strategies are more effectively focused on student skills.
Four of Russell County’s seven schools improved their scores: the high school and Dixie, Ladonia and Oliver elementary schools.
“Our results show consistent incremental growth,” Russell County superintendent Brenda Coley told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “Much of the success is the work of committed teachers. We have made outstanding improvements in quality of teaching, led by strong instructional leaders and high learning supports at all levels.”
Other factors contributing to the improvement, Coley said are:
- Expanded curriculum and collaborative planning
- Engaging students in standard-based learning activities
- Improved rigor and differentiated instruction
- Data-driven and personalized professional development
- Advanced technology and quality learning resources.
Coley wants to see more proficiency in math and reading.
“Efforts are being implemented to provide intense reading and math curriculum as early as primary grades, building a stronger foundation for students,” she said.
Other initiatives include:
- Credit recovery
- Summer enrichment
- Academic competitions
- Reading and math celebrations
- Small group instruction
- Spring break school.
Six of Lee County’s 14 schools increased their score: East Smiths Station, Loachapoka, Wacoochee and West Smiths Station elementary schools, Loachapoka High and Sanford Middle.
“The hard work that is demonstrated by our professional staff has benefited our students,” Lee County superintendent Mac McCoy told the L-E in an email. “… While we are pleased with the increase, know that we are committed to excellence and strive to continually improve.”
McCoy noted Loachapoka High School has increased its score from 67 to 81 n two years.
“The administration, faculty and students have made concentrated efforts to take control of the items they can control,” he said.
As for the schools that didn’t improve, McCoy said, they “will need to re-evaluate current practices. Some schools have had leadership changes in recent months that we firmly believe will increase the academic culture. We also much ensure that we are effectively utilizing the resources that are available.”
ALABAMA REPORT CARD LOCAL SCHOOL GRADES
Note: Schools are listed in order of their 2018-19 score.
|Phenix City IS||71||80||+9|
|Phenix City ES||65||75||+10|
|Mount Olive IS||81||77||-4|
|Mount Olive PS||81||77||-4|
|W. Smiths Station ES||82||86||+4|
|Smiths Station Jr. HS||87||84||-3|
|E. Smiths Station ES||82||84||+2|
|S. Smiths Station ES||89||83||-6|
|Smiths Station Fr.||80||80||0|
|Smiths Station HS||80||79||-1|