State creates more education confusion

Published 11:41 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

The one constant when it comes to Mississippi’s public education system is that it’s always changing, especially when it comes to state testing and accountability grades.

A decision Thursday by the state’s Board of Education reinforces that notion. The board approved a new school grading plan that is expected to produce more A districts and fewer F districts.

This new plan changes the current grading plan that’s only been in place a short time. Schools will be scored using both plans this year and will be given the higher of the two ratings.

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The new scoring plan, which should result in better ratings, will be adjusted to remove inflated test score growth expectations.

Thursday’s plan was put forward after officials in some low-scoring districts complained that going directly to a new table this year would be unfair to them, The Associated Press reported. That’s because the state planned to re-rank districts from top to bottom and assign grades based on a predetermined curve the board approved last year, AP reported.

That meant 14 percent of districts would get Fs, no matter how much their scores improved, AP reported. Supporters of low-scoring districts said the curve was unfair because districts that would have improved enough to reach a D under the old system would again be labeled as failing. Any district that fails for a second time could be taken over by the state.

Clear as mud, right?

The state has shifted tests and accountability models so frequently, educators and administrators are bound to be confused, too. It wasn’t that long ago that districts were able to claim ratings “waivers” because the state’s academic standards had changed. And here we are again in a similar situation.

The state owes it to students, teachers and administrators to find an accountability plan that works and stick with it. When the goal posts keep moving, it’s hard for them to score a win.