All school districts aren’t equal. Perhaps, in a perfect world, all schools would perform to comparable, if not identical, levels of excellence.
However, that’s not the case; some districts struggle to perform satisfactorily.
Nine Northeast Mississippi districts fall into accreditation categories requiring improvement. Some of the districts can pinpoint one or two areas of academic deficiency, some even focusing on adverse changes in a single subject area as the reason for a Level 2 or lower status.
All of the districts identified as “at risk” in a page one article in Sunday’s Daily Journal know their situations, and they’re trying to lift themselves out of their troubles. The nine districts, fortunately, aren’t going it alone. The state, besides citing their deficiencies, also lends a hand to help them get out of the ruts they’re in and on to firmer ground.
The state’s double role holding districts accountable to even-handed and constantly examined standards and helping those most in need of help do better is a productive and sensible arrangement.
The business of measuring individual schools’ performance, at least in Mississippi, is a relatively new practice. The fully developed practice of statewide academic performance standards started in the 1980s. The methods have been changed and expanded to more thoroughly evaluate every district. The 5-level accreditation system now will give marks in tenths of a point somewhat like a grade point average in college. A Level 3 district (satisfactory performance) could be measured as 3.4 , 3.6 and so on, to more precisely identify how satisfactory performance is.
The state’s positive role in applying standards also provides districts with ways of measuring themselves, not just agains, other Mississippi schools, but also against the performance of schools nationwide. The standardized tests forming part of the accreditation core in Mississippi also are taken by students in other states’ schools. Mississippians can look, for example, at our students’ performance compared to students in Georgia or North Carolina or Florida to get some kind of compass reading on the directions we need to be heading.
The state’s involvement in holding local districts accountable also keeps communication and information flowing in two directions. Local districts have had and retain a lot of latitude. Power, in fact, has been flowing more to local districts and less to the state as districts have been empowered financially to meet standards and excel. Nevertheless, the local-state link maintains and fosters mutual concern among the 153 districts statewide.
It’s good when a local district achieves exceptional performance; it’s better when 153 districts, plus the state, work together to help all schools provide an adequate public education.