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In the course of one year, Hickory Flat Attendance Center has moved up two education accreditation levels from being “At-Risk of Failing” to “Successful.”
The Mississippi Department of Education accountability model, which was introduced last year, measures student performance on more rigorous curriculum and assessments.
Under the accountability model, schools and districts received performance classification labels from highest to lowest: Star, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At-Risk of Failing and Failing.
The system also judges high schools and school districts by graduation rates. The Quality of Distribution Index (QDI) score and the High School Completion Index (HSCI) score are also measured within each school and each school district, which also factor into the determination of the accreditation levels that the school receives.
Hickory Flat Attendance Center showed an improvement in its QDI score, from 130 in 2008-09 to 136 in 2009-10, the school met growth, has a HSCI score of 102, and 63.4 was the five-year graduation rate for the school district-wide. School-wide, the state accountability system ranked Hickory Flat with a QDI of 142, met growth, has a 70.5 five-year graduation rate, and a HSCI of 139.
With a campus that has had to add trailers and classrooms to accommodate the school’s influx of population growth, students are still wanting to attend school at Hickory Flat, whether or not the student lives in the county or the school district. The campus was built in the 1930s and was originally built for 400 kids in the 1930s. In 2007, the school had a capacity of 588 kids and in 2010, there are 700 school-age children attending the attendance center.
Robert Merritt has been the had principal at Hickory Flat for approximately a year and is partially responsible for the change in academic growth. Along with the help of Assistant Principal Walter Moore and a dedicated staff of teachers, faculty, and students, Hickory Flat Attendance Center went from at-risk of failing to successful within one year. They moved up two levels in one year.
“The academic rating at this school had fallen down, so we set sights to make it academically successful. We went back to basics and fundamentals of teaching and learning and started teaching from bell to bell,” said Merritt.
“The first year’s growth is based on fundamentals. We put our feet in the ground and turned it uphill,” said Merritt. When I got here, there was a lack of structure, discipline, and organization and we saw a need for all of those things to change. Five to six months into the year, we began to see a shift in the ways that the students and teachers were performing,” said Merritt.
Merritt said that there has been some slow, methodical school days in August and September. He said that they didn’t have that last year at this time.
Merritt said, “We required kids to do what they were supposed to do, act how they are supposed to act, do what they want to do, and act how they should act. The teachers and staff got on board. We instituted more structure, discipline, and organization and it has worked.”
“One thing that I noticed this year is that expectations were there, few students are misbehaving, there are fewer dress code violations, discipline problems are down, kids know what to expect, and they have responded,” said Merritt.
Mr. Moore had a plan to make a plan to make the school better.
Merritt said, “I have been in the education business for 33 years. I have never seen anyone so qualified for curriculum and instruction that is as razor sharp as Mr. Moore. He has a great work ethic. He has done a great, outstanding job at Hickory Flat.”
Mr. Moore was head principal at East Union Attendance Center for 11 years and has been assistant principal at Hickory Flat for approximately one year.
Because of the student’s success, 7th - 12th graders now receive an extra five minutes on their break time, making it an 18-minute break. 3rd-8th graders also receive a special treat.
Virginia Derrick, freshman and sophomore English teacher, said, “The change in administration let the kids know where they stand, let everyone know their academic level, the students pushed and pushed, the students know what they are expected to do, they have an expectation of behaving, and are giving kids more confidence. As a whole, there is a positive change.”
Hickory Flat has 52 staff members, with 38 of them being certified teachers.
Merritt said, “Success breeds success. Now we want to move from successful to high performing.”