July 19, 2016
CLINTON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Board of Education voted July 14 to approve accountability grades for the 2014-15 school year. The accountability model, as set by state law in 2013, assigns schools and districts letter grades on an A-F scale. The model used to calculate the 2014-15 grades was the same model used for the 2013-14 grades.
Although the accountability model did not change, some questions arose from parents and communities when they saw two different letter grades: How well is my child’s school performing? What’s a waiver?
Each school and district received two letter grades, like last year. One grade is the official or “waiver” letter grade and the other is the “non-waiver” grade. The waiver is an exemption from the U.S. Department of Education that allows a school or district to retain the letter grade it received in the 2013-14 school year if the 2014-15 grade is lower as a result of assessment results.
The waivers allowed Mississippi and other states to move to higher standards of learning and new statewide assessments without any sanctions if scores dropped.
For years the state’s assessments, MCT2 and SATP2, did not accurately measure student proficiency because the cut score, or achievement standard, was set below proficiency. Students took these assessments for the last time in 2013-14.
In 2014-15, students took PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), a more challenging test. The state transitioned to this test to measure student performance against higher learning goals. The state is no longer a member of the PARCC consortium. As a result, students took the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) test in 2015-16. This is the assessment, developed by Mississippi teachers, which will be the statewide assessment for the next 10 years.
It is difficult to compare overall school and district grades for 2014-15 because the state transitioned from less rigorous state tests in 2013-14 to more academically challenging tests in 2014-15.
The transition period is now over. Schools and districts will receive only one letter grade for 2015-16, and this grade can be used to gauge how well they are performing against much more rigorous standards. These grades will be released in the fall.
Mississippi students are now taking more challenging tests than in years past. They are not the simple fill-in-the bubble end-of-year exams. These tests ask questions that require students to explain their reasoning. They measure more complex, real-world skills, such as critical-thinking, writing, and problem solving. Skills required for college and work.
We are holding students to a much higher standard so they can be successful in life. School and district performance will improve over time. Research has shown that anytime the bar is raised for learning, student performance dips. As students and teachers get used to the new tests, achievement will increase.
Schools and districts are doing an outstanding job of teaching students. The Mississippi State Board of Education recognized that fact in a recent letter to the editor (http://bit.ly/29XOQZt).
Parents and communities will have a clearer picture of school and district performance based on higher learning standards and a more rigorous assessment when the MAP test scores are released in August. These scores will be used to calculate the 2015-16 accountability grades that will be released in the fall. Until then, administrators should be examining their test data to ensure they are prepared to keep students on track and to help those who need additional support.
I believe that Mississippi is now poised to achieve at higher levels and we have a system in place to track our progress for the future. We have established higher academic standards of learning for all students, statewide assessments aligned to the standards and an accountability model that presents a more transparent picture of how well schools are serving students at all levels.
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications
Jean Cook, APR