January 27, 2018 10:16:22 PM
The moving target teachers and school administrators in Mississippi are expected to hit each year with state-calculated grades might end up shifting again midyear after an apparent issue raised from federal education leaders.
If you've ever spent time around Mississippi educators, one piece of feedback you've probably heard is the difficulty in keeping up with how their school and district will be evaluated at the end of the year thanks to what seems to be an ever-changing accountability model.
This model is what, in recent years, has become the A-F letter grades the public sees each year. The items that go into factoring those letter grades are what have given educators a headache for the last few years.
According to the Associated Press, this year was supposed to be the first year since 2010-11 that Mississippi schools taught the same curriculum, gave the same standardized test and were graded using the same scoring system as the year before.
But news last week that the state may have to reset the scale again in 2018 quickly put out the light at the end of that tunnel.
The U.S. Department of Education rejected parts of Mississippi's system in December. Mississippi is among several states that have been asked to make changes in plans to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed in 2015, as reported by the AP.
At issue apparently is how the state calculates points used to assign grades to schools. Establishing those scores is contentious, particularly because districts complain when the state changes rules in midstream.
Nathan Oakley, who directs elementary education and reading for the Mississippi Department of Education, told state Board of Education members Thursday that the "unexpected" federal objections mean that Mississippi must now include a score this year for students learning English as a second language in its system, even though the school year is half over.
Mississippi had planned to phase-in the English learner measures, fully incorporating them in three years. Of Mississippi's 142 school districts, 68 report no English learners, while only 58 have more than 10 districtwide.
With a few other objections included, state education leaders will turn in an updated plan to the U.S. Department of Education by early February, but the AP reports it could be three or four months before changes are finally approved by the board.
Changing the target halfway through a school year is unfair to students, teachers and administrators who started the school year with a certain set of parameters in front of them to achieve.
We're hopeful state leaders will work to "minimize the impact" of these changes as they said they would last week. But we also hope they review this situation and determine if anything could have been done before submitting its proposed system to avoid winding up in this situation again in the future.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo)
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