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Report card: Schools improved, but nearly half underperforming

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI —Data released today by the state Department of Education show schools and school districts have improved their performance over 2009, though nearly half still rank as low performing or worse.

Under the state’s accountability system, 51 percent of the 152 school districts are successful, high-performing or considered a star district, the highest possible rating. Last year, that figure was 40 percent.

The rest of the school districts are on academic watch or labeled low-performing, at risk of failing or failing.

Of the state’s individual schools, 58 percent are successful or above. That’s up from 49 percent in 2009.

The system is based on achievement rates on assessment tests, student growth and graduation rates. It also measures districts and individual schools against the rest of the nation.

This is the second year the state has used the model. Previously, Mississippi schools and districts were measured against in-state achievement.

The results show many of the state’s schools still lag behind when compared to the rest of their counterparts nationwide.

“While we certainly would have liked to announce more significant gains, we continue to make sustained incremental progress,” said state Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham.

There are only three star school districts in the state, one more than last year. There are 53 star schools, up from 34.

The Pass Christian School District on the Gulf Coast retained its rating as a star district, but a lot of hard work was invested, said Teresa Allen, an administrator in the central office.

“We constantly review and revise our curriculum to ensure rigor and depth of knowledge matches our framework. We’re just making sure our teachers have the training they need, the resources they need and the technology they need,” Allen said. “We put a lot of emphasis on professional development.”

At Boyd, Harris-Brown said her school used federal funding to hire two instructional assistants. She said those assistants and other core faculty, including herself and the school librarian and counselor, would work with advanced students while homeroom teachers would focus on those students who scored less than proficient on assessments.

“At any given time, there were two to three teachers in the classroom working with small groups,” she said.

Harris-Brown said the challenge this year will be to maintain the momentum.

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