Team Effort and Student-Focus Earn Pontotoc City School District "A" Rating
Team Effort and Student-Focus Earn Pontotoc City School District “A” Rating
“Every one of us is more than strong enough, but when we work together we're a power that nothing else can touch. Every piece makes us better.” Lyrics familiar to parents of Descendantsmovie lovers are a perfect illustration of teamwork—the kind of work in classrooms, on school grounds, in buildings’ ceilings and basements, and in the homes of the students’ the schools serve. All of that work, all of those efforts, all of those tears of exhaustion and celebration, and all of those words of instruction and encouragement —all together—resulted in the accomplishment of an A-rating for the Pontotoc City School District. The rating is based on student data for the 2017-2018 school year; however, an A rating doesn’t happen in one year. The work begins much earlier; the changes in mindsets, the belief in the attainableness of a big goal, and the actions that must be taken first to prepare for the work to come must be set into motion in advance of the actual accomplishment. Usually, a catalyst appears. Without a catalyst, changes continue without a big result. For Pontotoc City School District, that catalyst was an “all in” focus on where each student was instructionally and where each student could go academically provided what was necessary for that student to achieve.
For some students, needs were basic—a bed to sleep in, a snack when they couldn’t bring one, basic health and first aid needs, an adult to listen when a student was stressed or afraid. For other students requiring academic support, needs were met by teachers who arrived early and tutored before school or stayed late and provided remediation after school, particularly before a major test or assignment. Other students needed a place to practice interview skills or apply for scholarships to extend their education without placing a financial burden on their families. A group of students essential to this year’s A needed to be encouraged to participate in accelerated and dual credit courses and believe in themselves enough to participate in advanced placement testing to earn college credit. Focus on attendance of both students and teachers, as well as focus on best applying the time spent once at school for each student were two critical components to the district’s success.
Superintendent Dr. Michelle Bivens complimented all those involved and explained what the A means to her. “When I came to Pontotoc, I thought we were three years out from this goal, but at that time I had no idea of the amazing work our people would do and the awesome effort our students would give us. I usually don’t like things to deviate from the plan, but I will definitely take this one. It’s an A that others see as saying we are one of the best at doing what we do. It’s also an A that means we are better together as a district than any school, administrator, teacher, or student has to be alone, and this accomplishment is one that doesn’t happen without each’s contribution.”
Also, Pontotoc Elementary, D.T. Cox Elementary, and Pontotoc Junior High School earned the state’s highest rating for schools and districts and will have bright A’s on their school lawns very soon. Junior High principal Phil Webb shared that he had been asked many times what it really means to be an A school. “Being an A validates everything we do every day. Our teachers would give 100% and make sure our students had what they needed without the A, so I am extremely proud for our teachers and our students to have been recognized for the work and time that went into earning it.” D.T. Cox teacher Pakita King also spoke with pride about her school’s achievement. “We worked together as a team to develop more rigorous assessments and questions aligned to the MAAP test, being very intentional, focusing on the needs of each individual student instead of the class as a whole, and collaborating with one another more. Warrior Extension time was also an important part of meeting our students’ needs and growth goals.”
In addition to improving school and district ratings, the district closed achievement gaps for every subgroup, including students who qualify for free/reduced lunches, students whose first language is not English, and students who receive services from the district’s special education department. Federal programs coordinator, Tracye Crane, said the A as well as the other accomplishments of the district were very special to her as a long-time resident of Pontotoc and a former student and teacher in the district. "My children are the fourth generation of my family to attend Pontotoc City School District, and I couldn't be prouder of this achievement. My husband and I chose to come home because there is no better place to work and raise a family. This achievement proves that Pontotoc City is the best, and the district is continuing to uphold the value placed upon education by the community."