School report cards reveal room to grow

Published 12:54pm Sunday, September 15, 2013

The report cards are in. Everyone knows the difference between an “A” and an “F.” One is the label assigned to the excellent performance all should work for, while the other is the reflection of a failure to perform at the desired levels of achievement.

None of the local schools earned an “F” on the school system version of a “report card” this year, but two in the city came in with “D” grades on the Mississippi Department of Education’s 2013 Public School Accountability rankings, which were released Friday.

Overall, the Brookhaven School District earned a “D” for 2013, which is the third year in a row for the city school system to receive a “D” grade. That corresponds to the old “Academic Watch” level in the MDE’s previous grading system.

With a goal of making its ranking system easier for parents and the general public to understand, the MDE last year switched its designation system from “Star,” “High Performing,” “Successful,” “Academic Watch” and “Low Performing” to “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and “F” rankings, respectively. What used to be a “Successful” school district, for example, became a “C,” which suddenly sounded less successful just by changing the designation.

While the city school district as a whole came in with a “D” ranking, the grades for the individual schools in the district ranged from “C” to “D.” Brookhaven High School showed growth, moving up from a “D” grade last year to a “C” in 2013. Meanwhile, Brookhaven Elementary dropped from a “C” to a “D” in the same period. Alexander Junior High School stayed solidly at the “C” level for both years, but did improve its Quality Distribution Index, or QDI, from 150 last year to 162 this year. The QDI is determined by achievement on state tests, including the Mississippi Curriculum Test Second Addition (MCT2) and Subject Area Testing (SAPT2).

While the city district’s overall accountability grade has been unchanged for three years in a row, the Lincoln County School District has shown steady improvement during the same period.

In 2011, the county schools were ranked as “Successful,” which now equates to a “C” grade. In 2012, that improved to a “B” grade, and this year, the county school district held its own, coming in with another solid “B” for 2013.

While the county’s overall grade may not have changed from 2012 to 2013, grade levels for individual schools in the district showed growth this year. Bogue Chitto Attendance Center moved up from a “C” in 2012 to a “B” in 2013, and Loyd Star made a two-grade leap from a “D” last year to a “B” this year. Meanwhile, Enterprise stayed its course at the “B” grade level, and West Lincoln maintained is “A” level ranking for another year.

Certainly there is room for growth even in the county school district, since we all should aspire for that “A” on our report card, but the city has much further to go in its work for next year as it seeks to move up from its three-year stall at the “D” grade level.

The city district has faced some hurdles during the past year, as former superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya departed after her leadership received much criticism from members of the community. Since then, interim superintendent Stephanie Henderson has been keeping the system going, but ultimately the board of trustees will be making a decision on a future leader for the city school district. Their choice in this matter is vitally important, not only for the future of the city’s school children, but for the community as a whole. Strong schools are vital to the economic health of a region and are a major quality of life indicator that people look for when choosing a new home.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Terry Brister and the other leaders in the Lincoln County schools are to be commended for the job they are doing with their system. The county came in with an “A” and four “B’s” this year, and we all know that’s a good report card.