School district retains ‘A’ rating

From Press & Staff Reports

The Webster County School District has retained an “A” accountability rating — one of only 19 districts statewide to earn the highest letter grade.

The Mississippi Department of Education has released letter grades for schools and districts based on Mississippi’s new accountability system, which evaluates how schools and districts performed after implementing the state’s more rigorous college- and career-ready standards.

Superintendent of Education Jack Treloar said the Webster County Schools are ranked seventh in the state according to the new accountability model.

The Mississippi Board of Education approved the 2014 accountability results during its Oct. 17 board meeting.

The 2013-14 year is considered a transitional year for letter grades because it is the first academic year that schools were expected to fully implement Mississippi’s college- and career-ready standards.

Because of this transition, the U.S. Department of Education granted Mississippi a one-year waiver that allows a school to retain the letter grade it received in the 2012-13 school year if the 2013-14 grade is lower as a result of assessment results. Waiver grades are the official grades for 2013-14.

Local Ratings

All letters grades for the Webster County Schools were the same as last year: “A” for the district, Eupora High School and East Webster High School; “B” for East Webster Elementary School and “C” for Eupora Elementary School.

However, without the waivers, the school district, Eupora High School and Eupora Elementary School would have dropped a letter grade, according to MDE data. Both East Webster schools retained the same ratings without the waiver.

Of districts rated “A,” “B” or “C” in 2013, 76 would have seen their grades fall without the waiver.
Statewide, official district grades for 2013-14 include 19 “A” districts, 43 “B” districts, 48 “C” districts, 39 “D” districts and one “F” district. The grade for the Clarksdale Municipal School District is pending, as the district is currently under investigation for cheating allegations.

School districts other than Webster receiving an “A” grade this year were Amory, Biloxi, Booneville, Clinton, Corinth. Oxford. DeSoto County, Enterprise, Kosciusko, Lamar County, Long Beach, Madison County, Ocean Springs, Pass Christian, Petal, Pontotoc, Rankin and Union.

The statewide graduation rate for 2013-14 is 74.5 percent. East Webster High’s graduation rate is at 88.5 percent and Eupora High’s is at 86.2 percent, for an average district graduation rate of 87.4 percent.

Higher Standards

“Our superintendents have been working diligently over the past three years to implement college- and career-ready standards in their districts,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

“The waiver has enabled them to continue this important work without having to worry about being sanctioned if their test scores dropped because the tests were not aligned to the state’s higher standards.”

Statewide, proficiency levels on the 2014 state tests dropped for most grades as expected because the state tests did not reflect what students were learning. The new 2014-15 assessments will provide a more accurate measure of student learning because they are aligned to the state’s college- and career-ready standards.

“Next year’s grades will set a new benchmark to measure progress because students will be assessed on tests designed to measure the state’s higher standards,” Wright said.

“Teachers and administrators are doing a great job to ensure these rigorous standards are being implemented in their schools. The new assessments will provide meaningful feedback about the progress students are making toward meeting higher academic standards.”

Key Differences

As expected, accountability grades fluctuated this year because the new grading system factors in student proficiency, a standards-based growth model, and the four-year graduation rate, if the school has a 12th grade. The system is designed to present a more transparent picture of how well schools are serving students at all levels.

The new system places a greater emphasis on high school graduation rates and student growth, particularly for the lowest-performing students. The grades also follow a revised state law that requires a single “A” through “F” accountability system that meets both state and federal reporting requirements.

Key differences in the new accountability model:
• The new model emphasizes student growth, particularly the lowest-performing 25 percent of students.
• The previous system calculated student growth using a prediction equation. Now, students meet growth if their scores improve from one proficiency level to the next, or move sufficiently within the lower proficiency levels.
• The previous system included a “completion index” for the 12th-grade score, which gave schools partial credit for GED completers and other types of non-traditional diplomas. These students do not accumulate credit in the new system, per state statute.
“As we continue to raise the bar for academic standards, our students and schools are striving to meet the higher expectations,” said Dr. John Kelly, chairman of the state Board of Education. “Challenging students to do more will help equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, career and life.”

To view the complete 2014 Accountability results for schools and districts visit: http://reports.mde.k12.ms.us/report/report2014.aspx.