Senate OKs school grading system

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The state Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to appoint all superintendents of education and to mandate the state Board of Education grade Mississippi schools the same way students are graded.
Both bills now go to the House.
Various groups, including the Mississippi Economic Council, have lobbied for years to have all of the state’s superintendents appointed. Legislation mandating appointed superintendents has passed the Senate before, but has died in the House.
In the past, the Senate legislation has called for all superintendents to be appointed and all school boards to be elected.
“I think we are going to do it one step at a time,” said Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, explaining that he hopes to deal with changing all school boards to elected at a later time.
He said “the preferred model” nationwide is an appointed superintendent and an elected school board. He said of 14,500 school districts nationwide, only 147 have elected superintendents and 64 of those are in Mississippi.
Generally speaking, Mississippi’s municipal school districts like Tupelo have an appointed superintendent and school boards and county school districts like Lee County have elected school boards and superintendents.
Under the bill, voters can petition to have a vote on the issue and continue to have an elected superintendent if that is the will of the majority.
Otherwise, all superintendents are supposed to be appointed by January 2016.
Legislation also was passed to mandate the state Board of Education replace its current method of ranking school performance to an A, B, C, D, D-, F format. That would replace the current rankings of Star, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At Risk of Failing and Failing.
Tollison said the proposed change was “to a simple system that is pretty universal.”
No one voted against the proposal; though, some senators expressed concern that if successful schools received a C grade that might not look as impressive and could harm economic development efforts.
Tollison said the Senate should leave it to the state Board of Education to determine where the schools would fall in the rankings.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com