EDITORIAL: School rankings

Many Northeast Mississippi schools and school districts showed gains in the state’s demanding academic accountability rankings released today, and six schools in the region achieved Star status this year, the highest level of progress and achievement.
The Tupelo Public Schools disappointingly showed no progress overall and remain in a classification called Academic Watch, fourth in seven levels of measurement.
The Lee County district, by contrast, made impressive gains and held on to its ranking as a Successful system. Saltillo High School, Guntown, Mooreville Elementary and Mooreville Middle achieved High Performing status with their academic progress.
The Lee County district’s Quality Distribution Index rose 12 points, to 158, trailing the QDI for the Tupelo Public Schools by one point, which fell to 159 from 164. The QDI is determined by a formula based on state testing scores, and ranges from 0 to 300.
Across the region, six schools made the Star schools status: Rienzi Elementary, North Pontotoc High School, Oxford High School, Marietta Elementary, Booneville High School and Pontotoc Junior High.
The Booneville District, a Star district in 2009, was High Performing this year, as was Corinth High, a Star school in 2009.
The evaluation system was designed to rigorously assess and test state schools’ performance, with heavy emphasis on year-over-year improvement, and the first two years of measurement have been eye-opening and for many districts and schools, disturbing.
The evaluation system, while exposing deficiencies and measuring them, is not designed to put systems at risk or cause failure but to define the path to success. Every school district knows, if it takes the time to understand, where its weaknesses and deficiencies lie.
Correcting the weaknesses and pulling underachieving students and schools forward closes gaps and increases what students learn, which raises rankings.
The intent, in general, is to ensure that schools focus their instructional improvement efforts effectively toward all students, including historically low-performing subgroups. It is not unreasonable to strive for 100 percent proficiency because it demonstrates that all students, not just low performers, are expected to continuously progress.
State Board of Education member Claude Hartley of Tupelo said Thursday he is generally but cautiously encouraged by the results statewide because more schools achieved Star, High Performing and Successful status, with fewer at-risk and failing schools.
“It shows we are on the right trail statewide, and we will get better over time if we persevere,” Hartley said, noting that 51 percent of districts were ranked successful and above, compared to 40 percent in 2009.
The 49 percent still below Successful have ample incentives and examples for advancement.

NEMS Daily Journal