June 14, 2019 11:17:28 AM
Golden Triangle Early College High School students' accountability exam scores will be credited to each student's home district as of this fall.
GTECHS, located at East Mississippi Community College's Mayhew campus and which allows students to take college courses during their high school career, accepts students from Lowndes County, Columbus Municipal, Noxubee County, West Point Consolidated and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated school districts. However, it is considered part of LCSD, which also receives Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding to support the school.
Since the school was established in 2015, that has meant LCSD gets credit for all GTECHS students' test scores, including state end-of-year benchmark testing and college entry exams such as the ACT and SAT -- scores which factor into Mississippi Department of Education's accountability rating of school districts, which are released on an A-F scale each fall. District superintendents each signed a contract with GTECHS, EMCC and MDE in 2015, all agreeing to the test score allocation to LCSD.
In contrast, at schools like the Columbus-based Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven -- both of which accept students from multiple home districts -- MDE applies test scores to the home district's accountability rating.
The State Board of Education unanimously approved an accountability rule change during its regular meeting in Jackson Thursday morning, meaning GTECHS scores will be applied to students' home districts. The rule will take affect this October when district and school accountability ratings are released for the 2018-19 school year.
"This would allow the results from those schools to return to those students' high school of residence," MDE Chief Academic Officer Nathan Oakley said during the meeting. "This would give some flexibility and ensure those sending schools didn't lose the results from the students participating in these programs."
The state board's rule change comes more than a month after CMSD Board President Jason Spears penned a letter urging the state to change its accountability on behalf of CMSD, SOCSD and WPCSD.
GTECHS had 221 students total in 2018-19, with 45 from CMSD, 63 from LCSD, 33 from NCSD, 34 from SOCSD and 46 from WPCSD.
CMSD is currently rated a D district, while Starkville and West Point are both Cs. Noxubee County, now under state conservatorship, is rated an F.
Spears, who attended Thursday's state board meeting, said the GTECHS students' performance will only help CMSD's rating.
"We already have a lot of students in dual enrollment, but that will add to the accountability," Spears said. "The students that graduated this year in the first class, those students would count toward are graduation rate. It would only help. It wouldn't take away from us. This is the way it should have been to begin with.
"I'm very excited for the district as whole, but I'm excited for our counterparts in West Point, Starkville and Noxubee," he added. "I'm excited MDE listened to what we talked about and answered the bell to this oversight in what was happening. I'm glad it was addressed and corrected through the state board of education."
CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat said the new rule also will help build a better relationship between GTECHS and the other districts. At Columbus, for example, she said administrators would be more open to promoting GTECHS as an option for students.
"Overall, we will be more open to look at the purpose of the GTECHS process," Labat said. "... It will increase enrollment (at GTECHS). We will be more genuine in our interests. It makes GTECHS a partnership. Instead of (CMSD being) adversaries, we are partners."
WPCSD Board President Gene Brown said he's not sure how much of an impact the scores will have for the district, but said he was also excited for WPCSD when he heard the rule change was approved.
"A lot of those students are pretty bright students and I think they'll help the scores a bit," Brown said. "It's only fair we get the scores back to the home schools."
SOCSD Board President John Brown said he's proud of the effort each board president put forth. With the graduation rates and test scores coming back, he said it would benefit every area district to get those accountability measures.
"I just think it's fair for everybody," John Brown said. "I'm glad for the consistency and standardized procedures, just like with the Mississippi School for Math and Science. I think it will have a positive impact on our district."
LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright said he doesn't believe the scores leaving the district will negatively impact LCSD, but he hopes it helps at area districts.
"We don't have any problem with that," Wright said. "It seems fair to me for (the scores) to go back to the home schools. I think it's going to be a positive for all, scores going back to their own schools. They are going to get some scores back from some students that have developed (at GTECHS). Hopefully it will help them."
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