School ratings remain the same

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, October 11, 2018

Performance scores for local schools remain unchanged after state education officials spent three extra weeks revising the formula for school grades statewide.

The Mississippi Department of Education’s 2018 school accountability scores show a “D” grade for Bogue Chitto, Enterprise and Loyd Star attendance centers, with West Lincoln earning the highest marks with a “B.” Likewise, the additional 20 days’ worth of recalculating had no effect on Brookhaven schools, all of which were assigned “Cs” except for Alexander Junior High School, which continues to grade out as a “D.”

The scores were originally reported on Sept. 20. The Mississippi State Board of Education intended to approve the scores that day, but pulled back in the last hour to consider complaints about the fairness of the accountability system from superintendents statewide. The updated scores were released Thursday.

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The state’s accountability model measures the performance of schools and districts to see where improvements are needed at each institution. The model has changed frequently in recent years, with constantly-evolving goals and baselines drawing the criticism of school administrators who say they are unable to truly measure performance and adhere to the moving standards.

“This is a source of major frustration for those who spend their lives in service to the public schools of Mississippi,” said Lincoln County School District Superintendent Mickey Myers. “For these current accountability ratings, cut scores were raised significantly — the justification was that scores were inflated after switching (standards). So, now, growth is more difficult to achieve, but the bar is raised? I do not understand this rationale.”

Myers has complained current accountability models are unfair to the state’s 34 attendance centers — which teach grades K-12 under one roof — because the all-important growth numbers must be calculated over such a broad range. No attendance center has ever received an “A” rating under the current model, he said.

“The playing field is not level,” Myers said.

Myers said most Lincoln County schools score in the middle of the model’s five-point scale, but the math for attendance centers tends to dock them a letter grade. He’s asked each principal in the district to identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual teachers so that training and support can be provided.

The revised model shows 29 districts improving their letter grades over the previous year, with 181 of the state’s 895 schools earning an “A.”

The new math moves West Lincoln to No. 63 among the state’s 244 “1,000-point schools” — high schools — while Brookhaven High follows at No. 103, Bogue Chitto at No. 161, Enterprise at No. 173 and Loyd Star at No. 186.

Among the 651 elementary and middle schools — “700-point schools” in the MDE system — in Mississippi, Mamie Martin ranks No. 373, Brookhaven Elementary comes in at No. 387, Lipsey at No. 453 and Alexander at No. 471.

Around the area, the Franklin County School District earned a “B” rating, while the Copiah and Lawrence county districts both earned “Cs.”

Wesson Attendance Center, Franklin County High School, Lawrence County High School, New Hebron Attendance Center all graded out with “Cs,” while Topeka Tilton Attendance Center scored a “B.”

All three of Franklin County’s elementary and middle schools earned “Bs.” In Lawrence County, Monticello Elementary School earned a “B” while Rod Paige Middle School scored a “D.”

Elsewhere in the area,  Amite County, Crystal Springs, Hazlehurst and Tylertown high schools all earned “Fs.” McComb, North Pike and South Pike high schools were all “C” schools.

The 24 “A”-rated high schools in the state came from districts in Alcorn, Biloxi, Booneville, Clinton, Desoto County, Enterprise, George County, Greene County, Harrison County, Lafayette County, Lamar County, Madison County, New Albany, Ocean Springs, Oxford, Pass Christian, Petal, Polarville and Union.

“I am very pleased with our test scores and the progress that we are making,” said Brookhaven School District Superintendent Ray Carlock. “Our teachers have been working hard and it shows in our higher proficiency numbers all across the district. Growth is an area where we see a need for improvement and our principals and teachers are ready for this challenge.”