School board gets update on 9th-grade efforts
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
November 03, 2012 01:04 AM | 3558 views | 6 6 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Marietta City School Board on Friday heard from Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn about what the school’s staff is doing to improve ninth grade retention rates and academic performance.

The board met for nearly three hours to review the high school’s academic scorecard, a list of projects in the proposed $55.3 million SPLOST IV referendum and information about the SACS visit in early December.

They also approved calendars for 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

During the first few months of each school year the board invites every school principal to come and report on how their schools performed the year before.

In Colburn’s presentation, which lasted a little over an hour, she explained how her students performed on the End-of-Course Tests, the Georgia High School Writing Test, the ACT, the SAT, the Advanced Placement and IB World exams and discussed the graduation rate.

However, the biggest portion was devoted to what Forrestella Taylor, Marietta High’s ninth-grade administrator, is doing this year with the freshman class.

“She is incredibly passionate and effective,” Colburn said. “Her leadership is having a measurable and positive impact on our ninth-grade achievement.”

Taylor said her staff is participating in retention meetings at the middle school level; hosting a ninth grade preparation camp, where students learn more about the freshman experience; handling discipline problems with freshman differently than with upper classmen; increasing the number of mentors; getting more students involved in-after school tutoring; and focusing on academic interventions.

“At the six-week mark, we had a 42 percent decrease in discipline referrals compared to last year,” Taylor said. “These interventions have contributed to a huge decrease in our failure rates the first semester.”

As far as the other portions of Colburn’s presentation, she said her students’ EOCT scores reflected a decrease in the achievement gap in seven of the eight categories and on the writing test, Marietta High 11th graders had a 91 percent pass rate last year.

“On many standardized tests, there is an achievement gap between Caucasian students and minority students,” she said. “We want for all of our students to achieve at the highest possible levels, meaning there would be no achievement gap.”

Marietta High’s ACT composite score is 0.1 percentage point below the national average and above the state average, the SAT composite score is above both the national and state averages, and while Colburn said the school has “plenty of room” for improvement on AP tests, those scores have increased as well.

In regards to the school’s IB World program, they are scoring higher in five of the eight testing areas, and she continues to be “very proud” of the school’s program.

The graduation rate dropped by about 25 percentage points, from 85.8 percent in 2011 to 59.6 percent in 2012, but that was due to how the state is now calculating it, she said.

Before 2012, Georgia was calculating the percentage based on the number of students who start and finish the 12th grade. The new method is figured out by calculating the percentage of students who start ninth grade and graduate on time in four years.

Colburn said that the most “dramatic impact” related to the high school’s graduation rate is student transfers and that the district is looking into tracking enrollment and withdrawal of students more closely, along with verifying student residency and graduation requirements.

In other business, the board heard from Danny Smith, Marietta City’s director of maintenance and support, about where they are in finishing up the draft list of SPLOST IV projects.

He will ask the board for approval of a resolution at the Nov. 13 night meeting.

The district saw the first draft at their early September retreat. At that time, they expected to collect around $53.3 million, but Smith said Friday that the figure has increased by nearly $2 million based on the enrollment recently turned into the state department of education.

He said the amount of tax dollars Cobb and Marietta would receive from SPLOST IV collections between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018, will be based on the Full-Time Equivalent enrollment numbers reported to the state in March 2013.

Smith gave a brief recap on projects listed in the notebook, including paying off the district’s debt of $15.2 million and $5.3 million to renovate Northcutt Stadium, which was originally constructed in the 1940s, and the installation of a $630,000 synthetic turf field.

He reminded the board that if SPLOST IV didn’t pass in March, that the district would have to increase their property tax rate to pay off the debt.

Additionally, he said that they have met with architects a few times on the stadium and gone over the coaches’ “wish list.”

The district currently spends about $40,000 annually to maintain the field. The turf would have about a 10-12-year lifespan and replacement would be a third of the original cost, or about $200,000.

In other news, the board learned that seven members of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would visit Marietta City Schools between Dec. 9 and 12.

Jill Sims, the district’s director of elementary curriculum and instruction, said the individuals will interview various groups throughout the district, visit the high school, Marietta Middle School, Marietta Sixth Grade Academy, Marietta Center for Advanced Academics, and Dunleith and Park Street elementary schools during their three-day visit.

They will also interview each of the board members and meet with them on the last day for a final report.

“Our schools have been working very, very hard preparing reports and entering data for this visit,” Superintendent Emily Lembeck said.

The only item the board approved Friday was the calendars for the next two school years.

For 2013-14, school will start Aug. 8, 2013; Thanksgiving break will be Nov. 25-29, 2013; winter break will be Dec. 23, 2013, through Jan. 6, 2014; mid-winter break will be Feb. 3-7, 2014; spring break will be March 10-14, 2014; and the last day of school will be May 23, 2014.

For 2014-15, school will start Aug. 6, 2014; the Thanksgiving break will be Nov. 24-28, 2014; the winter break will be Dec. 22, 2014, through Jan. 6, 2015; mid-winter break will be Feb. 16-20, 2015; spring break will be March 30 through April 3, 2015; and the last day of school will be May 27, 2015.
Comments
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Reality Check
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November 11, 2012
Taylor's discipline problems are down because the teachers cannot refer a student until a parent conference is held. It is impossible to get those parents of students who need behavior intervention

in for such conferences. Hence, it looks like there are no problems. Now teachers just send students to the office. Remember that statistics don't tell the whole story.
Let's be real
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November 03, 2012
Want to increase the graduation rate? Bring back vocational classes/ schools. Let's be real. Every kid is not going to college (some don't want to go). We still need licensed plumbers, electricians, beauticians etc. Some won't pick up a book after school and could care less about an author's purpose, theme or setting or how to solve an equation. A diploma in one hand and a voc tech certificate in the other. Let's be real!
Marietta Resident
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November 03, 2012
To lower the number of students retained and increase the graduation rate it is important to implement programs, activities, and procedures for the involvement of parents. To increase parental involvement, community collaboration and business partnerships the MCS Office of Communications, the Office of Special Services, and the Office of Curriculum must take a more active role. Our Board of Education should start holding these offices and the Superintendent more accountable.
Former Employee
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November 03, 2012
Glad Mrs. Taylor is getting the recognition she deserves. Passion is exactly what she has when it's about doing what's right for kids. Too bad Dr. Lembeck didn't get that 2 years ago
BOE presentation
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November 03, 2012
Good coverage - slight correction. IB scores continue to improve with MHS meeting or exceeding WORLD averages in 6 of 8 areas. MHS exceeded international scores in five areas and exceeded the world averages in the percent of IB diplomas earned. Of those attempting the international exams, 81% of MHS IB full diploma students earned the IB diploma.
Don't Believe It
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November 03, 2012
What color are the students earning the IB diploma?

What color are the students in the gifted program?

What income level for both?

Two Mariettas, still.

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