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Mississippi likely to rework school rating system

 

Jeff Amy/The Associated Press

 

JACKSON -- After resistance from district superintendents, the Mississippi Board of Education is likely to again rework its rating system for high schools and districts. 

 

Just last month, at the demand of federal officials, the board gave heavier weight to high school graduation rates, making it count for 20 percent of high school and district ratings. 

 

State officials said more weight on graduation rates could shift some schools from failing to a "D'' grade. Using last year's test data, D-rated high schools would climb from 29 percent to 35 percent, while F-rated high schools would fall from 18 percent to 12 percent. 

 

But when the board sought public comments, the complaints rolled in. State officials said they had received 84 comments from 37 districts. 

 

Higher test scores were also given more weight as part of a larger recalibration to accommodate the graduation rate change. State Superintendent Carey Wright said Thursday that she wants to return to the score levels it approved in January. 

 

"We're going back to the original cut scores," she told members of the state board in front of an overflow audience, which included more than 20 superintendents. Such a large turnout of superintendents, the most influential lobbying group in Mississippi education, is unusual at a board meeting. 

 

District superintendents also want an assurance that they can keep their 2013 ratings if their grades fall in 2014 and 2015 as they transition to new curriculum and tests, but state officials say it's unlikely they will get the freeze for more than one year. 

 

That means schools could have to accept lower grades in 2015, the first year Mississippi administers new standardized tests geared to the Common Core state standards. States that have administered Common Core-aligned tests so far have seen sharp drops. 

 

"It's not 'might be ugly.' It will be ugly," said Grenada Superintendent David Daigneault, head of the state superintendents' association. "What they're talking about is to expect a 40 percent decrease in test scores." 

 

Wright, though, pledged the system would be recalibrated again in 2015 when the new standardized tests are incorporated into scoring, as well as in 2016, when ACT scores are rolled in.

 

 

 

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