School district unveils 2016-2017 accountability dashboard

By NIKKI SMITH,

While Petal School District faculty, staff and students are proud of their rating as number one in the state based on the results of Mississippi Department of Education’s accountability model results, Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon said this is only one piece of the district’s story.

Below, the district has compiled several data points based on information from the 2016-17 school year that Dillon said paint a more accurate picture of the school district. This graphic is what they refer to as the district’s accountability dashboard.

Petal School District joins other participating districts across the state in putting together this accountability dashboard for the second year and publishing them in their respective community newspapers to better educate the community about what the districts have going on beyond test scores.

“These are focal data points that tell our story across the district,” Dillon said. “Of course, the Mississippi Department of Education focuses on certain things for the accountability model, but there are so many other factors.”

Dillon said a couple of new components were added this year to give even more insight.

The information is split into five indicators. Indicator one focuses on student learning.

This section puts state assessment scores into an easy to understand format. It highlights the fact that Petal School District was first in the state in math and second in English and language arts.

The student learning component also features NWEA national assessment information, as well as daily attendance, promotion and retention rates and scores on the Mastery Prep practice ACT.

“The NWEA measures us versus the nation,” Dillon said. “We want to look at data points for how we are doing in Mississippi, but we also see how we are compared to the nation. Based on the people that participate in this, covers 49 states, 10.3 million students participated, we ranked above the national average.”

“We place a focus on ACT practice tests and how we rank,” he added.

This section also shows the number of students in the district receiving free or reduced lunches.

“This is an important part of our story,” Dillon said. “We are always impressed by the results that we get due to our free and reduced lunch rate. You know, not using that as an excuse, to know that we can educate all students at a high level and it doesn’t matter the background or where they come from. We care about all of our students across all levels.”

Indicator two looks at college and career readiness opportunities at Petal.

The dashboard shows that Petal has a 89.4 percent graduation rate, approximately 6.5 million in scholarship opportunities that Petal graduates received and average ACT scores for juniors and seniors. At Petal, 14 students scored a 30 or higher on the ACT.

Advanced placement, dual credit and career and technical education participation and pass rate results are also featured.

In the third section, hope and wellbeing, the dashboard shows feedback from students, community members and staff on a variety of topics, including general hope and wellbeing, student engagement, participation in extracurricular activities and opinions on if they feel like the district makes decisions based on what is best for the children and if they agree with the direction of the district.

The fourth indicator is financials.

“I think it’s very important to be very transparent with our finances and show that we put our money in instruction,” Dillon said. “That’s what the biggest piece of the pie is. Without the local dollars, we could not do what we need to do and that’s impressive. I want to brag on our local people who stepped up, and through taxes, we’re able to provide a high-quality education.”

The final section focuses on teacher quality by featuring the number of advanced degrees held by teachers in the Petal School District, as well as the number of national board-certified teachers and high teacher attendance.

“This is a great way to show that we’re trying to be Mississippi great, but we’re also trying to continue to climb the ladder nationally, and I feel that we’re doing some great things across the district in many ways,” Dillon said. “This shows the whole experience because it includes extracurricular activities, participation, hope and wellbeing pieces along with all the other data points. This is a great way to tell our story and highlight the things that are important to us as a district.”