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Local schools’ grades mixed for community

Accountability report card grades released Friday for Mississippi schools represent a true mixed bag for those in Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

     While many in the city school district likely were lamenting an overall “D” grade, which was “Academic Watch” under the old evaluation system, those in the county school district were cheering a “B” grade, which equates to “High Performing” on the previous scale. Lincoln County’s grade was, no doubt, boosted by an “A” at West Lincoln Attendance Center, one of only a handful of schools in the state functioning at the level that was earlier classified as “Star.”

     The school and district rankings are compiled annually and are based on a number of factors.

     Among those are standardized test scores and growth rates – how scores improve from minimal, basic, proficient and advanced classifications of student achievement. In a change for this year, graduation rates were not factored into accountability rankings.

     In a year-to-year comparison, the Brookhaven district’s status is essentially unchanged from 2011 to 2012. It’s just that seeing a “D” grade, as opposed to the previous “Academic Watch” label, could be jarring to parents and citizens who live in the district.

     Among individual schools, the slide at Brookhaven High School to a “D” grade is troubling, particularly given that last year, it was ranked as a “High Performing” school, which would have been a “B” on this year’s scale. And BHS’ 77.4 percent graduation rate was second-lowest among all public schools in the county.

     Other schools in the city district saw their grades this year correspond with the evaluation labels from last year.

     While Brookhaven basically stayed flat, the Lincoln County School District continued its climb up the accountability category ladder. In 2010, the district was on “Academic Watch,” last year it was “Successful” and this year it is “High Performing,” earning it a “B” on the new grading scale.

     Among individual schools, Enterprise Attendance Center climbed two notches by going from “Academic Watch” last year to a “B” this year, for “High Performing.” West Lincoln’s ascension to “A,” or “Star,” represented a one-grade climb, and Bogue Chitto moved up from “Academic Watch” to a “C,” which was “Successful” on the old scale.

     All news in the county district was not positive, however, as Loyd Star slipped from “Successful” last year to the “Academic Watch” equivalent of “D” this year. The school also was on “Academic Watch” in 2010.

     Outside of Lincoln County, just up the road in Wesson, the attendance center there scored a “B.” No other school in the Copiah district did better than a “D.”

     Overall parental involvement – not just the efforts of a handful of motivated mothers or fathers at any single school – plays a tremendous role in the determining the success of a district. And the support of a community at large, not just those with parental connections, cannot be understated in the success equation.

     When legislators and educators pushed for the new A-F scale implemented this year, they maintained it would be provide a clearer, more easily definable means for determining how a school or district is doing. A hoped-for side effect would be that parents in lower-scoring districts would take a more active role and play a part in boosting school performance.

     For Brookhaven schools, opportunities for parental involvement are many. Parent-Teacher Association groups at the schools certainly would welcome increased membership and participation. And open houses being held presently at the various city schools represent a chance for parents to see firsthand who their child’s teachers are and what the children are learning.

     For parents in successful schools, the message is simply to stay the course while continuing to aim higher.

     An “A” grade is the goal for all schools and districts. While that is certainly a challenge to attain, no school, district or community can afford to flunk out in their efforts to reach that goal.