Brindlee Mountain High School improved its state report card score by 9 points over last year’s score.
Mike Little, the principal of BMHS, is proud of what the school has accomplished. He credits the community, students and faculty for the score’s increase.
One aspect that was upsetting for last year’s test results was that the middle school score did not count. Because the middle school and high school merged into one school, it threw out the middle school’s score. The middle school had an 85, yet it did not get a report card grade because of the merger.
The biggest issue with last year’s report card is the only measurable test was the ACT because the middle school, in the eyes of the state, did not exist.
“When you look at academic growth and academic achievement, the only measurable test was the ACT,” Little said.
Another issue with the report card is that it is two years behind, Little said.
“What was on this year’s report card is still not what we’ve done in two years here,” Ashley McCulloch, the vice principal of BMHS, said.
Little explained that forty percent was already in the books before they even started this year. The graduation, the college career readiness (CCR) and the ACT scores had already been calculated.
The school inherited a D as their grade and it was not even this administration’s doing, but they accepted the grade and knew they would strive to improve. Little said that it reflected on him, but McCulloch said it was not a reflection of the school because it took nothing from the middle school.
“It didn’t account for their [the middle school’s] attendance, their growth, their achievement even though they fell under the umbrella of that D grade,” McCulloch said.
The 78 the school received this time reflected all the schools, but it is still counting the CCR from two years ago. The school has a plan to fix that and they believe it will be much better next year.
There are still some things that the state does on some grading that is not fair, according to McCulloch. For instance, the state counts some decisions made for the individual student against the school. There are several students that enter a program called Project Search. Project Search is a transition program for students who have completed all requirements for graduation from high school but are being trained in other areas for competitive jobs. The program is focused on education and employment for people with mild disabilities. It is similar to an unpaid internship.
These students graduated with a diploma, but the school holds their diploma until they complete the program. This program gives them job skills and helps them find a job so they can hold employment, but because the school holds their diploma those students are considered dropouts.
Little explains that the state views a dropout as someone who does not finish their education in four years. If you do not graduate within that time you are considered a drop out. You can continue in a fifth-year program, but the state views you as a drop out even if you obtain your diploma.
McCulloch said that even if there was a student that had a medical reason for missing a full semester and could not catch up in that semester but did finish a semester later with a diploma, the state considers that child a dropout. The school will help the child to graduate with their class, but in the event they could not, they would be considered a dropout with their high school diploma.
“If you finish in summer school,” Little said, “you are a graduate.”
The school feels more confident in being prepared for the next report card. On college or career ready programs, each student has to get at least one credential to be considered college or career ready.
“Some kids find it hard to get these credentials,” Little said.
A credential can come from ACT scores, military or AP classes. If the student cannot score a passing grade, they are not considered ready. The school offers technology skills or Work Keys exam. Work Keys is a skills assessment test for students who will be working for employers that place an emphasis on the National Career Readiness Certificate.
The credentials can come from Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, Microsoft PowerPoint which are stackable. These are good for obtaining jobs, Little said.
For instance, Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) provides a credential in ServSafe. Some restaurants and fast-food places require that their employees complete this course. McCulloch said that you can go to some places and see the plaques on the wall with the employees that have finished it. After speaking with the Family and Consumer Science teacher, Mrs. Breanna Medlock, McCulloch said that students that take this course have a better chance at getting a job and a better possibility of a raise.
They have revamped some of the programs by addressing some of the students that need credentialing and work on credentialing early on and not waiting for their junior or senior year. Little said there are several ninth graders who have already credentialed through the ag department and business tech program.
“We have concentrated on getting these kids a credential early on even though we want them to have several credentials through their high school career,” Little said. “The big thing is that they at least have one.”
“Obviously what we are trying to prepare them for, early on, is going to be career tech credentials such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, those things,” McCulloch said.
Starting on career prep in ninth grade, the students can start working on the stackable credentials through business tech.
CCR is 10 points out of a 100 on the report card, it can make a difference in a C and a D. Brindlee gets support from career tech including the Marshall County Technical School. Brindlee’s business tech, ag department and home economics department are technically part of the Marshall County Technical School.
Little wanted to personally thank the Tech School because of all their support. There are many students who take advantage of the programs offered at the Tech School, he said. Without their support the students would not have the options of some of the classes offered.
McCulloch spoke highly of the JROTC program at Marshall Technical School. It has served several of the students well, she said. There are several who will go on to military service because of the program.
“This report card is a community effort,” Little said. “If the parent does not do their part and the kids do not come to school and the kids does not try when they are at school, just on absenteeism there is ten percent of the score. That is ten points out of 100, which is a letter grade. The career tech on CCR rate, if those people do not supplement us and help us get the kids credentialed, that is another letter grade. Now we are at a C before we even took a test. It is inevitably important that everybody be a part of this and own it.”
The school started to identify that fairly quickly last year after the first report card came out since it was so new. They realized quickly that they needed to strive and not blame other teachers for not doing their jobs. It is more than the academic teachers that make this grade. Little said that he broke it down for the staff and showed them what it would take for a better grade. Everyone needed to take a little blame and focus on doing better.
McCulloch said that it is not just the community here, but all of the Marshall County Community. Dr. Cleveland, Dr. Wigley and every member of the board, the way they have spent countless hours on attendance and tracking those kids. They are holding the students accountable and focusing on educating the parents on how big the attendance is.
“We did not perform achievement-wise to the level I wanted to see us at last year,” Little said.
This year the school’s scores have shown tremendous growth.
The issue Little believes stems from the lack of acknowledgment for middle school and their 85. Before the tests, the school showed videos to help motivate them. One of the videos shown was troops going into battle, Little said. The clip that the students were shown was to demonstrate that they needed to “dig and scratch for every point because every point matters,” Little said.
These students did all of the hard work and it did nothing does it do for them, Little said. The grade did not even matter.
“That brought them way down,” Little said. “That had to have had an effect on them. In the eyes of the state, the school did not even exist.”
Little said he did not recognize that not having their score count would be that big of a deal, but as he looks back, he can see how it can impact the students. He wanted to show the students that their scores did matter.
The report card is a combination of years. The graduation rate and the CCR is always two years behind and the academics is the previous year. The report card with those with a grade 12 has a 20 percent academic achievement, 25 percent on academic growth and ten percent chronic absenteeism are on the year that you just finished. The graduation rate which is 30 percent and the college and career ready which is 10 percent come from previous years. They have to have an eye on previous years and on what is coming.
“The work we are doing now,” Little said, “will benefit the school two or three years from now.”
The school is having to keep a constant eye on the students who transfer in and out of the school as well. Some of the students may count as dropouts so the school has to make sure that the records are up to date and clean.
This also applies if a student comes from a different school and is failing. The school is responsible for getting the student to graduate in their cohort.
According to the state, there are only two types of diplomas. If the child graduates with an essentials diploma, even though the student graduated, they will still be considered a dropout.
“There are a lot of factors in this that are just not right,” Little said.
“One issue is that if you are doing what is right for the kids then sometimes you have to eat some of the bad that the state puts out there,” McCulloch said. “What is best for some of these kids is that they are on essentials or that they go to Project Search, but we are docked for that.”
The school will take the penalty on the students who truly need the help.
“You put the principal in a situation of am I willing to throw away a graduate for this kid to have this opportunity,” Little said. “The answer is always yes, every time and ten times on Sunday. But this is an unfair mark on our school when this could potentially knock you from one letter grade to another.”
Brindlee Mountain High School will continue to work hard with all of their students, staff and community to improve. The school wants to thank everyone for their help on bringing this grade up and their continued support.
The school wants to thank the parents for choosing Brindlee Mountain’s schools for their child. They understand that some of the children have the option of going to other schools and they are appreciative for those who chose for their children to get their education at Brindlee.