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District and School Performance FAQ

Why do we need the accountability system?

Accountability systems for schools and districts are required by both state and federal law. The Mississippi Statewide Accountability System establishes a set of minimum standards for public schools and districts in our state to ensure that Mississippi students are prepared to compete in a national workforce or go to college.  The Accountability System also informs the public on how well schools and districts are performing. Mississippi’s accountability system considers how well students perform on state tests, whether students are showing improvement on those tests from year to year and whether students are graduating on time.

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.

Do you have a quota on the number of districts/schools that get an A or an F?

No.  There is no set amount of A or F schools or districts.  While we do have to assign all grade labels (A, B,C,D, and F) in the first year that we use a set of performance measures, grade assignments in subsequent years are based on whatever the score is that the school or district earns.  It is possible that we would not have any F schools or districts in the second year.

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.

Why don’t attendance centers (K-12 schools) have their own grading scale?

The Mississippi Statewide Accountability System has separate grading scales for districts, schools without 12th grade, and schools with 12th grade.  These separate scales are designed to compare similar groups.  While most schools are either high schools (9th through 12th grade) or elementary/middle schools (Kindergarten through 8th grade), there are many grade configurations across the state.  School grade configurations are decided by local school districts and change from year to year.  While the MDE does not want the accountability system to disparage any particular school, some districts may find that a non-traditional grade configuration for their schools may result in different accountability results than anticipated.  These variations will be unique to each district and cannot be accommodated by the MDE in a way that is beneficial to all schools and districts. 

Regarding attendance centers that have a kindergarten through 12th grade configuration, a subcommittee of the Commission on School Accreditation has been formed to discuss possible solutions for these schools, due to their relatively unusual configuration. 

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.     

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.

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.

District and School Performance

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.

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.