The evening was terrific. Great band, lots of dancing and singing, cheering and hugging and high-fiving. The air was electric. And it was all about student achievement.
It was a beautiful sight to behold. The community was fully in. Many dignitaries were present to cheer on the educators whose hard work made it happen. The business community footed the bill for the event.
They had plenty to celebrate. To say that Biloxi’s educators have worked hard — really hard — is an understatement. The school district, where 67 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, has a large population of students who come into the district speaking little or no English. Many of them have parents who speak virtually no English. It isn’t the easiest population to teach. But the folks in Biloxi’s schools made a conscious decision to overcome the barriers, adopting a “whatever it takes” approach.
Over the course of the last school year, everyone — from the superintendent to principals, teachers and staff — asked themselves and one another, again and again, “What else can we do to make sure our students are getting what they need?” Nothing was off the table.
They paid attention to details. They poured over benchmark testing, identifying which skills each student had mastered and where each needed more focus. Teachers came in early, stayed late, and held a Saturday School where they volunteered their time to work with students who needed extra help. Hundreds of students came willingly, ready and eager to learn.
It worked. When the scores were in and the ratings assigned, Biloxi School District had earned an A, the highest rating possible. In fact, Biloxi ranked as the third highest scoring school district in the state.
The folks in the Biloxi School District have reason to celebrate. They are and should be very, very proud. They are proud of their students, proud of themselves, and proud of one another.
The parents and students are grateful. Their futures are brighter and more secure because of teachers who wouldn’t stop pushing.
This week, Biloxi’s teachers are right back at it, in their classrooms, pushing hard, making sure their students are getting what they need to have a shot at a great life. Perhaps the work’s a little easier after all the hugs and high fives.
We could all learn something from Biloxi. Work hard and smart, stick together, ask the tough questions — and celebrate the big stuff. Like student achievement.
Is your community celebrating this week? Schools and districts across Mississippi made tremendous strides in raising student achievement over the past year. The work is difficult, harder than most of us can imagine, but the future rewards for children are limitless. In classrooms every day, many teachers are working miracles in the lives of children. Let’s all celebrate their success and resolve to do our part to ensure that every child, in every classroom, in every school gets a shot at a bright future.
(Nancy Loome of Clinton is the founder and executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, a nonprofit, grassroots network of more than 63,000 Mississippians who are committed to ensuring a quality education for all Mississippi children.)