Samita Jeter’s initiative for Lowndes County

Published 10:30 am Friday, June 7, 2024

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By: Jordan White 

Lowndes County Public Schools, led by Superintendent Samita Jeter, is working to improve student outcomes and community engagement using new approaches and data-driven strategies. Jeter assumed the role of superintendent in October 2023 and began value approaches to elevate student outcomes by analyzing data for decisions, community engagement and teacher collaboration, all with the aim of bringing the Lowndes County Schools system to a brighter future.

According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the 2023 school proficiency levels from Lowndes County elementary and middle schools ranged from 11.0% to 31.5% from math, science and ELA (English language acquisition) calculated together. The council also found the ACT scale scores for Lowndes County’s entire system in 2015 performed at 15.25 while in 2023 they performed at 14.94. 

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Before Jeter’s tenure as superintendent, the Lowndes County school board was involved in the Governing for Achievement Project (GAP), an intensive, research-based training designed to help school board and superintendent teams build their governance capacity and focus on improving student outcomes. Jeter embraced the program’s professional development opportunities learning new strategies for setting ambitious goals tailored to improving student success. 

“The training proved invaluable as it helped me to understand the current status of student achievement in Lowndes County and set goals for improving it,” Jeter said. The established goals are to engage the instructional staff to solicit strengths, challenges, opportunities, and hopes for the school. 

Central to Jeter’s strategy is value using to help make data-informed decisions. Recognizing the critical role of data in driving progress, Jeter emphasizes the importance of analyzing data to improve outcomes.

“I am looking at the various data types available and will use them to ensure that the school system continuously improves,” she said. “I am searching for ways to help our stakeholders get a clearer picture of the school system’s performance.” 

Jeter relies on data from the ACAP Summative Assessment, ACT with Writing, Pre-ACT, Work Keys, AIM Plus Diagnostic Assessment, iReady Diagnostic and Progress Monitoring Assessments. 

Another goal is for the parents and community members to be able to understand the data collected on students’ academic performances. At the district level, the school board has already begun to host parent engagement meetings where parents will be given specific details about state assessment data and schools within the district. 

Community members are briefed on district outcomes and progress via school board meetings. The schools will also share information at PTA meetings and other activities such as Literacy Nights, Math Nights, Lunch and Learns and other engaging events.  

“Most recently, on February 19, all Lowndes County Public School staff convened at The Calhoun School for various professional development sessions,” Jeter said. “The topics ranged from student engagement for math, communication, and marketing, USDA Professional Standards, Synergy Unleashed, best practices to support student success, classroom management, and school safety and employee liability. From here the employees participated in activities to address their mental health and well-being. The presenters shared and engaged teachers and staff in training sessions to grow their knowledge and improve their skills.”

Jeter identified a pressing need for bolstering mathematics education within the district, 

The Alabama Numeracy Act focuses on increasing best instructional practices and foundational skills, focusing on students in grades 4 and 5. The school district receives training from the Office of Mathematics Instruction, which focuses on the Alabama math, science, and technology Initiative (AMSTI). The AMSTI in math equips teachers to set learning targets and success criteria. They can also utilize research-based material and hands-on methods, and advance student thinking by posing purposeful questions. Programs like Envision Math Curriculum and iReady are also used as intervention tools for struggling students in math.

Another issue that the Lowndes County School system faces is declining enrollment, which has been an issue for decades due to population shifts. During the 2017-2018 school year. Lowndes County had 1,419 students. That number has steadily declined to 1,163 students for the 2023-2024 school year. 

Jeter said she remains steadfast in her commitment to meeting the diverse needs of all Lowndes County students. The district even offers day tutoring as an additional program for struggling students. Jeter said she recognizes the pivotal role of community collaboration in fostering a supportive environment conducive to learning. She encourages school leaders to leverage social media platforms to showcase classroom interactions and highlight student achievements. By amplifying the district’s narrative with social media, Jeter aims to engage parents, families, and students in setting and achieving educational goals, leaving behind a lasting legacy of empowerment and academic excellence.