A month after releasing the results of its accountability ratings for the 2012-2013 school year, the State Board of Education is again tinkering with how is measures the success or failure of our school districts.
A task force appointed by the board has recommended a number of changes to the current system, some we favor, others we question.
Among the changes:
The new system will measure academic growth based on a student's movement within proficiency levels rather than "predictive scores." Additional credit will be given to districts when students improve more than one level or move to the highest level. We feel this measurement is better than relying solely on projecting what a student's score should be based on what the student's previous score had been.
A focus on growth among the lowest scoring 25 percent. Again, this puts an emphasis on an important aspect, rescuing those students who are in danger of falling so far behind that they drop out of school. A low performing student may never attain the academic success of the best students, but it is important that we don't simply "give up" on those students. Drop-outs take a terrible toll in any community, so making sure these at-risk students graduate is of critical importance. A successful school makes that commitment and those efforts should be reflected in the overall ratings.
An acceleration component that, beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, would grade high schools and districts, in part, on the percent of students enrolled in accelerated courses and the percent of those students passing the national exams. Accelerated courses include Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), industry certification courses, etc. We support this change, provided the legislature produce the funding required to hire additional teachers and to provide them the training necessary to teach these high level courses, as well as the ability to cover the cost of the national exams. Currently, many districts are prevented from offering these courses because of chronic underfunding of schools by our Legislature.
As a group, we believe the proposed changes provide a better indicator of how our schools are operating.
The public is invited to weigh in on those proposed changes. Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written comments should be addressed to Dr. Paula Vanderford, Education Bureau Manager, Office of Accreditation and Accountability, P.O. Box 771, Jackson, MS. 39205-0771.
The deadline to comment on these proposals in Nov. 12.