State OKs final school rankings

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Roughly 60 percent of Mississippi’s schools earned a spot in the top three levels of the state’s school ranking system, according to data that was approved on Friday by the state’s Board of Education.
The rankings approved on Friday are the same ones the Mississippi Department of Education released unofficially on Tuesday. No changes were made to the final rankings.
Those rankings place schools in seven levels based upon their performance on state standardized tests that students took during the 2010-11 school year. Those rankings are, from highest to lowest, Star, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At-Risk of Failing and Failing.
Eight percent of Mississippi’s schools earned Star status this year, while 23 percent are High Performing and 29 percent are Successful. Last year, 58 percent of the state’s schools were ranked at least Successful, compared to 49 percent the year before.
The total number of failing schools fell from 29 to 11.
“Mississippi schools continue to make sustained incremental progress,” said Mississippi Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham. “This year’s accountability results indicate that Mississippi’s schools are moving in the right direction. It is important that we continue to see a reduction in the number of schools and districts in the failing categories.”
Four Mississippi districts earned Star status: Pass Christian, Enterprise, Petal and Clinton. Northeast Mississippi had 12 High Performing districts and eight of the state’s 65 Star schools. Last year, Mississippi had 53 Star schools and three Star districts.
Northeast Mississippi’s Star schools are Booneville High School, New Albany High School, Oxford High School, D.T. Cox Elementary School (Pontotoc City), Pontotoc Junior High School, South Pontotoc High School, Belmont School and Tishomingo County High School.
“It shows the commitment we have placed upon the importance of education,” said Chad Spence, principal at D.T. Cox. “We don’t stress test scores, we stress our kids learning.”
Booneville High School has been a Star school in all three years that Mississippi has used the current system to rank its schools, while Oxford High School and Pontotoc Junior High School both received the distinction for the second consecutive year.
The Lee County, Nettleton and Baldwyn school districts were ranked Successful. The Tupelo Public School District was ranked Academic Watch.
The rankings are designed so that schools and districts ranked Star and High Performing are exceeding national averages, while those ranked Successful are matching those averages.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com

Star Schools
NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI schools with a Star
ranking, the state’s highest:

• Booneville High

• New Albany High

• Oxford High

• D.T. Cox Elementary (Pontotoc City)

• Pontotoc Junior High

• South Pontotoc High

• Belmont School

• Tishomingo County High