Local school districts earn Cs in Mississippi Department of Education’s accountability ratings

Published 9:30 am Friday, October 21, 2016

West Lincoln Attendance Center earned a B grade in the annual accountability results released by the Mississippi Department of Education Thursday, as did Brookhaven and Mamie Martin elementary schools in the city.

The news was not so good for Alexander Junior High and Brookhaven High School, which both earned a C, but it was even gloomier for Loyd Star, Bogue Chitto and Enterprise attendance centers and Lipsey School, which all got a D grade on the state’s school grading system.

Overall, though, the city and county school districts both earned Cs, which was on par with the state average.

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“We are very pleased with this year’s increase in our accountability rating,” said Brookhaven School Superintendent  Ray Carlock. “This higher rating is indicative of the cooperative effort and hard work of our teachers and students.  We will use this data to improve our classroom instruction and student achievement, and we fully expect to achieve an even higher rating next year.  This year’s results prove that by working hand in hand with our community, we create a better path for student success.”

MDE’s ratings, based on a new test and a recalibrated A-F grading system, considers how well students perform on state tests, whether students are showing improvement on those tests from year to year and whether students are graduating within four years. The system also factors in how well schools are helping their lowest achieving students make progress, according to MDE.

For the past two years, districts received waivers to use higher grades earned earlier because of changing standards and tests. This year’s score will stand as-is, without the option to claim a waiver. 

The Brookhaven School District improved its rating in the most recent results. It earned a D last year. Without a waiver last year, the Lincoln County School District would have earned a C, the same as this year. 

The two districts were among 38 earning a C rating, which includes North Pike, Lawrence County and Copiah County school districts as well.

“Like it or not, MDE makes the rules,” Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Mickey Myers said. “We simply have to develop a course of action in response to the newest model.

“Currently, we are meeting with principals and lead teachers to identify areas of deficiency. When more stringent accountability model appeared, nearly a decade ago, basically we transcended from an academic watch label. In the spring of 2013, Bogue Chitto, Enterprise and Loyd Star achieved high performing status, while West Lincoln was recognized as not only a Star School, but also a National Blue Ribbon School.”

He continued, “We may have to rejuvenate our climate of academic excellence, but we will ascend to exemplary academic levels again. While these ratings may cloud one’s perception, I am totally convinced that the Lincoln County Schools provide an excellent educational option.”

Fourteen districts in the state earned A ratings. Oxford School District scored the highest in the state with 745 points out of 1,000 possible.

Thirty-nine districts received a B grade, including Franklin County.

C grades were given to school districts scoring between  523 to 587 points. Lincoln County, ranked 68th out of 148 districts in the state, scored 559, while Brookhaven, ranked 77th, scored slightly less with 547.

Thirty-five districts earned Ds, including South Pike, Walthall County, Hazlehurst City and McComb school districts.

Amite County was among the 20 school districts receiving Fs.

“The state on average is a C in terms of academic achievement and I think that’s a good starting point,” said State Superintendent Carey Wright, noting that higher testing standards are meant to measure Mississippi students against a national yardstick.

Wright said changes are significant enough that grades are hard to compare from year to year.

“When the 16-17 accountability results are released, you’ll have a better picture of how our students are performing, because you’ll have two years of data based on the same as

This year’s accountability grades includes student proficiency in history and science, along with math and reading proficiency. There’s also a category for “readiness” and “acceleration.” Readiness refers to college and career readiness.

The state uses Advanced Placement and dual enrollment numbers within a school district to determine its “readiness.”

Grades are broken down into grades of A to F.

An “A” grade represents scores in the top fourth of schools, after all the scores in the state are divided into four groups. The grade is characterized as the “highest status” and “highest growth” a school can achieve.

A “B” grade designates scores above the state average for the given year. The grade is characterized by “high status” and “typical growth.”

A “C” grade includes scores above the state state average for a given year, but with no scores in the lowest fourth grouping. Also, at least three of the five additional performance indicators of growth, history proficiency, graduation rates, college and career readiness and acceleration are above the state average. The grade is characterized by “typical status” and “typical growth.”

A “D” grade represents scores below the state average. Reading and mathematics growth is below the state average. Also, at least two of the three additional performance indicators are below the state average. The grade is characterized by “low status” and “low growth.”

An “F” grade represents scores in the lowest fourth grouping, with reading and mathematics growth also not above that group for the given year. The grade is characterized by “lowest status” and “lowest growth.”