Schools to get two rankings

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi’s schools will receive a pair of rankings from the state this year.
For the past three years, the Mississippi Department of Education has ranked its districts and schools on a seven-tier scale with “Star” being the highest and “Failing” being the lowest. Those rankings are based on student performance on state tests and, in some cases, on graduation rates.
A new law requires the MDE to convert those levels into five letter grades – A, B, C, D and F – this fall. It allows for a simple conversion, with the bottom three tiers being labeled “F,” the middle tier being ranked “D” and the top three ranked “A,” “B” and “C,” respectively.
This fall, the MDE will release both sets of data, said Interim State Superintendent Lynn House. It will give school districts both their letter grade and what their ranking would have been under the former seven-tier system. That will allow better comparisons, she said.
“We will do an overlay for the transition year so school districts can see each,” House said.
The state switched to a new ranking system in the fall of 2009 in conjunction with giving new, more rigorous tests designed to be more in line with national standards.
Prior to the switch, districts were ranked between Level 1 and Level 5, with 5 being the best. By the final year of the old system, half of Mississippi school districts were ranked in the top two levels.
Last year, 8 percent of Mississippi’s schools were ranked Star, while 23 percent were High Performing and 29 percent were Successful.
Mississippi will need to again revamp its ranking system in two years when it begins to use the new Common Core State Standards, more demanding curriculum guidelines adopted by 45 states.
New tests will be released in 2014-15, and the state will have to determine how to use data from the dramatically different exams.
“I’m sure there will have to be some adjustment to the Common Core system because we will have new types of scores, and it will all need to be reviewed and readjusted to keep it fair and reliable,” House said.
House said the legislative intent would be for the MDE to keep the same A through F labeling system.

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