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District and School Performance FAQ

District and School Performance

Why do you use percentiles to assign grades?

Using percentiles to assign grades is similar to when a teacher grades on a bell curve. Everyone gets a grade assigned based on the performance of others that are being graded. In the classroom, this would be helpful when a test is given for the first time, and we don’t know what is considered a good score verses a bad score. We only use this method in the first year that new performance measures are used.

Why do schools and districts have to be assigned an A-F grade?

State law requires that all schools and districts receive a grade of A, B, C, D, or F based on the performance of the school or district. The grade is assigned using all the information available regarding the school or district’s performance and is called a summative rating. Most states use a summative rating for schools and/or districts to make it easy for the public to know how a school or district is doing in educating students. Fifteen states currently use an A-F rating for schools and districts.

Does the Accountability System put too much emphasis on growth?

Does the Accountability System put too much emphasis on growth?

The Mississippi Statewide Accountability System awards schools and districts for both proficiency and growth, with added emphasis on the growth of the lowest performing students. In this manner, a school that has a relatively low proficiency rate but is making significant progress may be rated as a high performing school. This provides for more equality in the assignment of grade labels and accommodates schools with different challenges across the state.

Because students that are proficient and maintain proficiency from one year to the next are credited with growth, schools with high proficiency rates need only maintain their proficiency to earn credit for growth.

The added focus on the growth of the lowest performing students forces schools to identify and add additional supports for students that are struggling, regardless of the student’s inclusion in any of the federally – defined, traditionally - underserved subgroups.

Why are English Language Learning students now a part of accountability?

English language proficiency for students whose primary language is not English is measured by the student’s performance on an English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT). Students who do not meet minimum performance standards on the ELPT receive additional services to become proficient in English. The new English Learner (EL) component of the Mississippi Statewide Accountability System is a requirement under federal law and measures the progress of students toward becoming proficient in English within five years of entering an EL program. This component holds schools and districts accountable for required services provided to these students.

Why can’t we use ACT rather than giving high school assessments?

While federal law does allow flexibility for assessments in high schools, assessments other than the Mississippi Academic Achievement Program (MAAP) assessment must meet federal requirements in the same manner as the MAAP assessment. These requirements include

  • assuring that the assessment is properly aligned with and addresses the breadth and depth of the state's academic standards;
  • provides coherent and timely information about student attainment of state academic standards at a student's grade level;
  • is equivalent in its content coverage, difficulty and quality as compared to the state's other assessments;
  • produces individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports regarding achievement on the assessments that allow parents, teachers, principals, and other school leaders to understand and address the specific academic needs of students;
  • provides disaggregated results for the state, district, and school by each major racial and ethnic group; economically disadvantaged students compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged; children with disabilities compared to children without disabilities; English proficiency status; gender; migrant status; homeless children and youth; status as a child in foster care; and status as a student with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces on active duty;
  • provides unbiased, rational, and consistent differentiation between and among schools in the state; meets ESSA's requirements for assessments as outlined in Section 1111(b)(2), including technical criteria and accessibility, except the requirement that all students in a state take the same assessment; and
  • be approved through the federal peer review process as meeting all of the requirements.

While some states have tried to get approval to use ACT instead of statewide assessments, none have been successful. The MDE is monitoring the process in other states and nationally regarding the use of assessments other than the statewide assessment on academic achievement.

Does the Accountability System put too much emphasis on proficiency?

The measure of academic achievement, or proficiency, on ELA and math assessments is a federal requirement and is a common measure of performance across states. In Mississippi, proficiency standards are modeled after proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is used as a national measure of student performance. This way, Mississippi students are prepared to compete in a national workforce.