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RELEASE from Empower MS:

The Mississippi Department of Education has released the latest school accountability ratings for the 2014-2015 school year. This is the final year that schools and school districts can receive a waiver, which keeps official grades from declining even if student performance would otherwise result in a lower grade. Overall, 19 school districts were “A” rated, 43 were “B” rated, 54 were “C” rated, 30 were “D” rated, and zero were “F” rated. The full ratings for every school and school district can be found here.

Number Of School Districts In Each Rating:

Here are three takeaways to keep in mind when reviewing the latest grades:

1) School and school district grades continue to be artificially inflated due to waivers they received as the state was transitioning to new tests and higher standards. For three straight years, no school or district has experienced a dip in their grade, even schools that have seen a drop in performance. When the new A-F accountability rating system was initially passed, the intent was to make it easier for parents to truly understand how their local school is performing. These waivers create a false sense of success that can mislead parents by creating an inaccurate picture. And by “giving everyone a trophy,” it makes it harder to recognize and celebrate schools that are making strides in increasing student performance.

2) Our schools are improving. Without the waivers, the accountability grades would create a fairly discouraging picture of public education in Mississippi. However, it is important to remember that our schools are improving as evidenced by the state’s 2015 NAEP assessment scores. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is known as the “Nation’s Report Card” and is considered the best gauge on how students in every state in the country are performing. Here is a look at the growth from 2013 to 2015:

Mississippi was the only state to show a significant increase in 4th grade math, was one of 13 states to have a significant increase in 4th grade reading, and the only state to have increases in both. While Mississippi is not at the national average yet, the state is certainly moving in the right direction.

3) It is also important to remember that setting a high bar for performance is critical for lifting our state off the bottom of national education rankings. Studies have shown that student performance improves faster in states with strong accountability systems than states without them. And a 2007 study by the Urban Institute found a failing grade led to subsequent and significant academic gains for students. “Specifically, when faced with increased accountability pressure, schools appear to focus on low-performing students, lengthen the amount of time devoted to instruction, adopt different ways of organizing the day and learning environment of the students and teachers, increase resources available to teachers, and decrease principal control,” the study said.

Creating a world class education system for Mississippi starts with creating an accurate picture of where student performance really is today. We applaud the legislature for enacting our A-F accountability system in 2012. Now we have to make sure those grades are accurate and then use those grades to stimulate improvements. Low grades should not demoralize us, instead they should push us to innovate and search for new answers to Mississippi's education woes.

And schools and districts that are truly showing improvement in student performance deserve recognition and much celebration.


Posted July 15, 2016 - 11:15 am

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