The Mississippi Department of Education is preparing to release the first school rankings under the newest version of the state’s accountability model within the next few weeks and school districts across the state are expected to see lower rankings even as student performance continues to rise.
Booneville School District Superintendent Dr. Todd English, who serves as chairman of the department of education’s accountability task force, said parents and community members need to understand the upcoming ratings are based on criteria far different and more difficult than that used in the past.
“You simply can’t compare this scale to the old scale,” he said.
While retaining the well-known A-F designations, the requirements for achieving those rankings have been made much more rigorous and are now based on different sets of data. English said it’s’s expected less than 1 percent of districts across the state will receive an A rating and less than 10 percent a B rating when the results are issued.
“They’ve reset the bar and they’ve reset the bar so high it’s going to take several years to get back to where we used to be,” said English.
The new system puts less emphasis on the performance of individual students and much more focus on the lowest performing students and the progress students are making.
“It puts a premium on how you educate the bottom 25 percent of your students and how you grow your students,” he explained.
More than half of a district’s score will be based on the performance of the lowest 25 percent of students and on graduation rates.
The emphasis on improvement in student performance means the highest performing districts and schools will have the toughest time with the ratings because when performance is already extremely high there’s not as much room for improvement.
He said there’s also a changing definition of what it means for a student to be proficient in a given area and Mississippi’s system is one of the most rigorous in the nation in defining that mark. He said the ultimate goal of the system is to show if students are being equipped for the real world and ready to graduate with the ability to perform college level work. Mississippi, and the country as a whole, are working to catch up with the rest of the world but setting standards that reflect that level of performance means creating a high threshold for success.
Mississippi is actually one of the country’s greatest education success stories in recent years, he said. Education in the state is making great strides with the state having made the largest gains of any state in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
English said performance is increasing across the board for schools in the state, but with a new, more rigorous rating system placing emphasis on different areas it’s impossible to compare the new accountability system with the old.
“The ratings cannot be compared to the old system. The new system is much more comprehensive and it’s much more difficult to succeed,’ he said.