State school board to choose new rating system

By Laura Tillman/The Associated Press

JACKSON — The state Board of Education is moving forward with changes to how the state grades its schools and districts.

The board is likely to vote Friday to seek public comment on a new system to determine A-to-F grades for schools and districts. Board members may also vote on a temporary system to evaluate schools until the new formula takes effect.

Lawmakers pushed for a new grading system after the board removed high school graduation rates from the grading system. Senate Bill 2396, approved by lawmakers and sent to Gov. Phil Bryant, sets performance goals and directs the Department of Education to link state and federal standards.

At a Thursday meeting, board members said the new system’s goal should be improving student achievement, not merely providing a measuring stick. Board members said that when emphasis is put on judging schools based on certain categories, schools respond accordingly.

In the proposal presented Thursday for future school years, a special emphasis in the new grading system will be on students in the lowest 25 percent of achievement.

“A lot of time they’re ignored and they too need to be moved up,” Chairman Wayne Gann told The Associated Press. “That’s fertile ground. Theoretically they’d be the easiest ones to move up, because they’re not all there because of a lack of ability. A lot of times it’s a lack of motivation, and if you can get those folks motivated then you can change those scores in a hurry.”

The proposal would reward schools for a variety of other markers of success, including graduation rates, student improvement and proficiency in core subjects.

The plan also includes the possibility of rewarding schools for enrolling students in college-level classes such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

Board members said they hoped to create scoring system that would be easier for the public to understand, like the A-to-F system adopted last year.