State to tweak school ranking formula

news_education_greenBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – As the academic year nears its close, the formula that will be used to grade Mississippi’s schools still is being tweaked.

The Mississippi Board of Education in January approved a new model for measuring the state’s schools and districts. However, the U.S. Department of Education said this month it needs more work.

That’s because the new formula does not give enough weight to graduation rate, the federal department said. It means Mississippi must revise it with the state tests that will be used to determine rankings that will be distributed in just over a month.

The new model replaces the one that used Quality of Distribution Index, growth and graduation rate to grade schools. Instead, it examines the percentage of students who are proficient in reading, math and science and the percentage who meet growth in reading and math. Growth of students in the bottom 25 percent in reading and math also is measured.

Previously, Mississippi used a different formula to grade its schools than the one it sent to the federal government to measure them under the No Child Left Behind Law. But a state law passed last year requires it to use the same formula for both state and federal accountability. That meant the USDE had to approve the state’s new model.

In it, elementary and middle schools are graded on a 700-point scale and those with a 12th grade are on a 900-point scale, which also includes proficiency in history and graduation rate. Each category is worth 100 points.

The USDE’s concern, said MDEspokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle, was that graduation only counts for 11 percent of the total. They wanted it to be at least 20 percent, she said.

“Graduation should have more emphasis, and we have concurred with that position,” she said.

Elaine Quesinberry, in the USDE press office, confirmed the federal department is “continuing to work with the state on their proposal.”

The tweaks would only affect schools with a 12th grade.

The MDE has convened stakeholder meetings to determine its best course of action, Guilfoyle said. The revised high school index will go to the Commission on School Accreditation on Thursday. Based on its recommendation, it could go to the State Board of Education at its April meeting and then back to the USDE.

Whichever model is adopted will be used to grade schools for their performance during the current school year. However, the MDE already has said schools can keep their rating from last year, unless they improve this year. That was to allow them to focus more fully on implementing the new Common Core State Standards.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com