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ECMS makes the grade

By By Janet Little Cooper
It has been a long time coming and after only one year under the leadership of the youngest principal in the state of Alabama, Escambia County Middle School has achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
AYP is a part of the new No Child Left Behind legislation, insuring that schools will continue to improve year after year until the year 2014 when all schools will be at 100 percent, meaning every student will score levels three and four on the Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT).
"The state of Alabama like all other states have adopted a plan to reach the ultimate goal of 100 percent by 2014," ECMS principal Zickeyous Byrd said. "The state of Alabama established benchmarks which clearly tell us, for example, that all schools should have at least 51 percent of their eighth graders in reading scoring levels three and four on the ARMT and 48 percent scoring levels three and four in math. Those are our goals and we must accomplish them. If not, we don't meet AYP."
According to Byrd, ECMS students not only met, but also surpassed the state requirements for the first time in seven years.
"In the eighth grade, we had about 67 percent of our students scoring levels three and four on the ARMT in reading and 69 percent scoring levels three and four in math," Byrd said. "These scores surpass a lot of schools in a lot of different counties."
ECMS students only met 66 percent, or 14 out of 21 goals last year, meeting 100 percent this year.
This transformation took place through a series of actions that Byrd implemented in a Mobile county school prior to coming to ECMS.
"During our first year, we implemented accountability," Byrd said. "We made students and teachers accountable for learning. Research tells us that the reason many schools are not successful on standardized testing is because teachers don't get the opportunity to cover all of the materials that we are tested on. To remedy that, I brought in pacing guides which gave teachers a plan on what to teach and when and how long to teach it. We evaluated the teaching of teachers and the learning of students by implementing Criterion Reference Tests. These test assessed what the teacher taught, how well the teacher taught it, and how well the students learned it. If the students didn't learn it, then we implemented re-teaching strategies."
In addition to that, Byrd also implemented gender-based-classes separating the boys and girls for seventh and eighth grades.
"I think that once the students became accustomed to it, they began to appreciate the concept," Byrd said.
Byrd said that it was hard to implement so many new programs all at once, but said it was necessary due to the urgent need to improve the status of the school.
"I am thankful to the Lord for everything," Byrd said of the school's success. " I count this as a tremendous blessing."
Byrd graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary school education in two years from Concordia College in Selma when he was only 19-years-old. He continued his education at the University of South Alabama where he received his master's in school administration in only a year and a half. He also has his educational specialist degree from USA.
He began his educational career as a fifth grade teacher at Morningside Elementary School in Mobile where he taught for five years before becoming the title one facilitator at Mobile County training Middle School in Prichard.
After a year, he was named assistant principal where he stayed two years before taking the job at ECMS.
Byrd took on one of the worst schools academically and with the most suspensions and assaults in Mobile, from the worst to one of the top schools in just one year following a similar plan of action that he has implemented at ECMS.