The Mississippi Department of Education has released their first round of school ratings under the revised A-F system. Some schools did show an improvement in testing while others are benefiting from the Board of Education’s attempt to skew the numbers with their lack of focus on graduation rates.

More school districts were rated higher this year compared to last year with the graduation rates not being factored in under this new scheme. But even with that critical measure not included only three districts in the state received A ratings: Clinton, Enterprise and Pass Christian.

Of the 152 school districts, 47 received B’s, 42 received C’s, 37 received D’s, and 20 received F’s (three districts were not rated).

What that means is 99 school districts around Mississippi are rated C or lower – that’s 65% of our districts that are mediocre, average and scrapping by in the task of educating the state’s youth.

Even in the upper 47 school districts – those that received a B – some individual schools within those districts received a C or lower.

Compare these numbers to 2011. As AP reporter Jeff Amy wrote, “While in 2011 only 32 of the state’s 152 districts earned what are now counted as As and Bs, this year 50 districts got those marks. And while 70 got what are now Ds and Fs last year, this year only 57 rated that low. The number of C districts fell from 50 to 42.”

Yes, some districts did receive better ratings because of increased test scores from students and that is commendable, but the overwhelming reason for the rating improvement for many of these districts is the lack of inclusion of graduation rates in the rating system.

The ratings are skewed and give an inaccurate picture of the state of education in Mississippi schools.

But even if we took the numbers at face value as some will have you do, these ratings should make taxpayers across Mississippi uncomfortable enough to urge their legislators to act now for the betterment of our youth’s collective futures.

Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn have all stated their desire to focus the 2013 legislative session on educational reforms, but some across the state are still worried about protecting their self built, self propagated little kingdoms. With only three districts across the state receiving an A, it’s time parents, teachers, and taxpayers push back on the powers that be and demand better for our children.

Are charter schools the solution? No one knows fully and even if some work, others will not. But why not enact measures such as these that aim to assist our struggling education system? Why not expand opportunity and implement reforms that seek to improve student achievement?

No parent tells little Johnny or little Suzy to aim for average, to be a C student. We want our children to excel and be high achievers that reach for the stars.

If children are our focus, with 2/3 of the state barely making an average rating, there is much room for improvement. We must aim higher and put aside our bias and self interests.

Every district – including the top three – should recognize the need for improvement across the state. School boards and superintendents cannot be isolationists.

Some districts think they are in a bubble and their issues are all that matter.

It’s time the people of Mississippi pop those bubbles and demand better for every child in the public school system. After all, your tax dollars are paying the bills. Don’t you expect a better return on your investment?