Board adopts new school rating system, factors in graduates

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The state Board of Education has approved a new school rating system.

The system for the 2012-2013 school year adds graduation rates to the calculation of A-to-F grades for high schools and school districts.

The board also opened a proposal for a future system to evaluate schools and districts for public comment, a step toward final approval.

Lawmakers pushed for a new grading system after the board removed high school graduation rates from the grading system. Senate Bill 2396, approved by lawmakers and sent to Gov. Phil Bryant, sets performance goals and directs the Department of Education to link state and federal standards.

In the system for the current year, schools will take the highest of different calculations.

One ranks schools based on the High School Completion Index, which was used in previous years and factors in students who complete high school but do not receive a traditional diploma. Another rates schools based on their five-year graduation rate, and a third rates them based on a four-year graduation rate combined with a quality distribution index, based on test scores. All calculations can be affected by whether the schools have met growth, as it has been defined in previous years.

Board members say they don’t yet know how many schools’ grades will change because of the graduation rates addition.

Schools that lack in test scores but graduate a higher percentage of their students could see improvements, but those with a high rate of drop-outs could potentially fall by a letter grade.

“You’re always concerned about the unintended consequences,” said Interim Superintendent Lynn House, of adding new factors to the grading system.

The new rating system, being devised for the 2013-2014 school year and beyond, will take a wide variety of factors into account in rating schools. The proposal would reward schools for a variety of other markers of success, including graduation rates, student improvement and proficiency in core subjects.

The plan includes the possibility of rewarding schools for enrolling students in college-level classes such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

The proposal puts special emphasis on the lowest achieving students, holding schools accountable for whether they help those students improve. Public comments will be accepted on the proposal through mid-May.

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