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Star Potential

While Oxford School District is one of the top school districts in the state of Mississippi, this year’s state test results were mixed, and steps to improve are underway for the coming year. Marian Barksdale, president of the Oxford School Board, shared her thoughts on the state test results and explained the board’s plans for improvement. “We are pleased with some of the scores; we still have a lot of work to do,” Barksdale said. “Overall, we expect what’s called our QDI (Quality Distribution Index), which is a number that is a result of a formula that they apply, to go up this year. We want it to go up more." Oxford High School leads the district with a QDI of 216, followed by the elementary school with a QDI of 184 and Oxford Middle School with a QDI of 182. Despite her optimism in the overall results of the tests, Barksdale voiced some concern for the lower grades, especially as they move into middle school. “We start to lose some of their achievement or they don’t keep up as much,” she said. “So we’re working on that right now and trying to capture them more and get better results in the middle school, so we don’t have to play ‘catch up’ in high school.” Even though some areas have lower scores than others, Barksdale said the school district considers itself “one of the best school districts in the state.” “Our language arts scores are a little bit more disappointing than our math scores, but in general, we are doing very well, especially compared to the rest of the state,” Barksdale said. The board plans on implementing new techniques that promise improvement, including a program at the high school that will help teachers better relate to their students. “We think that this will help communications and the general atmosphere of the school,” Barksdale said. “It encourages the teachers and the students to develop their relationships and mutual respect. We think that if this goes very well, the teachers will be able to better communicate lessons.” Barksdale said the program is more of a “fluffy” step toward improvement, and a more academic step that the board is taking includes an analysis of the school and classroom data at frequent intervals. “We will be looking at the data at intervals throughout the year, not just once or twice a year,” Barksdale said. “The teachers will be able to see what skills the students are getting well and not well. They’re going to be doing more interval assessments so teachers know what they need to go over more.” Oxford High School is rated as a “star” school, which is the highest classification a school can earn, and the board’s goal is for the whole district be a “star” district. “We aren’t that far from that, but we aren’t there yet,” Barksdale said. “We want to make greater strides. We want to get there more quickly.” Local superintendent Brian Harvey agrees that improvement has been made in most grades, but there is still work to do. “We’ve got to continue pushing and try to raise student achievement,” he said. “We’ve got to increase the rigor in our classes.” Harvey said the school district has to have a QDI above 200 to be considered a “star” school district. “We hope to reach this goal next year,” he said.