Rating ‘successful’ public schools

The charter school bill debate has brought attention to the way the Mississippi Department of Education rates the achievement of its school districts. (Scroll to end of post for detailed MDE information.) Despite the fact that a school district may contain a majority of poorly performing schools, the MDE will still label it as “successful,” as long as a majority of students within the district meet its standards for achievement, growth and graduation rates.

Nonprofit group the Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP), which has strongly advocated for the charter school bill approved by the state Senate, brought this rating process to light when groups spoke out for an amendment that would restrict charter schools to chronically underperforming school districts. MCPP argues that districts rated “successful” aren’t necessarily successful, depending upon the definition used.

Parents Campaign Director Nancy Loome said in a statement, “We cannot afford to create more schools — more administrators, more buildings, more overhead — in places where we already have excellent public schools.”

According to MCPP research, in two public school districts that are rated “successful” — East Tallahatchie and McComb — there are no schools rated “successful” or higher. And in 12 “successful” districts, at least half the schools are rated below “successful.”

MCPP President Forest Thigpen said, “A ‘successful’ rating means almost nothing in terms of letting parents and taxpayers know how well their schools and districts are faring. The whole rating system and the results it produces needs to be audited.”

In response to a request for MDE’s rating of school districts, the Department said that the state uses the same rating system for school districts as it does for individual schools. Labels, ranging from low to high, are: Failing, At Risk of Failing, Low Performing, Academic Watch, Successful, High Performing and Star School.

Districts and schools are rated based on standardized test scores, growth and graduation rates. “Growth” is determined by “an equation used to predict a student’s score this year, based on their scores last year. Statistical calculations are used to standardize the differences between the predicted and actual student scores to develop a growth composite for each school,” the Department said in a statement provided by Pete Smith.

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Information provided to MBJ by Department of Education:

Mississippi Statewide Accountability System

Overview of State Component

What is the MDE definition of “successful” as it applies to a school district?

A district is labeled “Successful” in the State Accountability Model if it meets the criteria for a successful school based on Achievement, Growth and Graduation rates. (See the chart later in this document). For the purposes of the Accountability System, a District is treated as school (i.e. all the students in a district are combined for the calculations)

What is the definition of “successful” when applied to an individual public school?

A school is labeled “Successful” in the State Accountability Model if it meets the criteria for a successful school based on Achievement, Growth and Graduation rates. (See the chart later in this document).

Can you explain to me how the rating process for school districts works?

This is a high level overview of how schools and districts are assigned labels under the State Accountability System

  1. Standardized test are administered each year to the students:
    1. MCT2 (3 -8)
    2. SATP (Algebra I, Biology I, English II, US History)
    3. MAAECF (Alternate Assessment for students with disabilities)
    4. The results of these tests are used to determine a student‘s mastery of the subject tested. The students are assigned one of four categories:
      1. Minimal
      2. Basic
      3. Proficient
      4. Advanced
      5. For the Achievement component (QDI) the calculation is:
        1. QDI= (0 x % scoring Minimal) + (1 x % scoring Basic) + (2 x % scoring Proficient) + (3 x % scoring Advanced)
        2. QDI can have a value between 0 and 300
        3. For the growth component, an equation is used to predict a student’s score this year, based on their scores last year. Statistical calculations are used to standardize the differences between the predicted and actual student scores to develop a growth composite for each school. This growth composite can range from -3 to +3. A growth composite of greater than or equal to 0 means the school / district met growth.
        4. Graduation rates are determined by the following:
          1. A 5 year cohort rate is used in calculating graduation rate or High School Completion Index. This rate is based on the status of students who entered the 9th grade five years ago.
          2. The graduation rate is determined by the number of students receiving a Standard Diploma.
          3. The High School Completion Rate is determined by the percentage of students who receive the following:
School Completion Condition Weight
Standard Diploma 300
Met Requirements Except Graduation Test 150
Occupational Diploma 175
Certificate of Attendance 150
GED 200
Still Enrolled 50
Dropout -300

The HSCI can range from -300 (100 % of students dropping out) to 300 (100% of the students getting a standard diploma)

  1. These components are used to determine a school’s or district’s label based on the following chart:

QDI Range Growth Status High School Completion Variables
Not Met Met
200-300 High Performing Star School / District HSCI>= 230 or Grad Rate >=80%
High Performing HSCI< 230 or Grad Rate <80%
166-199 Successful High Performing HSCI>= 200 or Grad Rate >=75%
Successful HSCI< 200 or Grad Rate <75%
133-165 Academic Watch Successful
100-132 Low Performing Academic Watch
Below 100 Failing At Risk of Failing

Note: The labels “Low Performing” and “At Risk of Failing” switched positions in the table in   2011. This table reflects the 2011 labels.

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