Schools show improvement with new accountability grades

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(The Center Square) — The Mississippi Department of Education released its annual accountability scores this week, with a record number of the state’s 146 school districts receiving high marks.

Not receiving high marks were the state’s charter schools, which are limited mainly to failing school districts. One charter, Ambition Preparatory Charter School, earned a C, while the rest earned failing grades of D and F.

There were 57 A-rated school districts (39% of all districts) was led by Ocean Springs and followed by Long Beach, Clinton, Petal and Neshoba County. For comparison, five years ago in 2018, only 12.2% of school districts made the cut for the top grade (18 districts). When it comes to individual schools, 37.6% earned A grades (326 out of 867 schools).

Of the top-scoring districts, 22.8% of them were on the Gulf Coast (13 districts). Eight out of nine (southeastern Mississippi) districts in the Hattiesburg-Laurel metro received top marks, while all of the districts in the Jackson metro area earned passing grades, with four – Clinton, Madison and Rankin counties and Pearl – earning the coveted A grade.

Of the other passing grades, there were 47 B’s (32.2% of all districts) and 29 C’s (19.9%). There were 36.2% (314 statewide) schools that received B’s, while 13.5% (117 schools) were marked with a C.

As far districts with failing grades, only 8.2% received a D or F and only 11.6% of individual schools (91 schools). The F-rated districts were: the East Tallahatchie Consolidated School District, the West Bolivar Consolidated School District, the Yazoo City Municipal School District and three charter schools (Joel E. Smilow Collegiate Charter School, Midtown Public Charter School and Leflore Legacy Academy Charter School).

In comparison in 2018, there were 34% of districts and 30.3% of individual schools that received failing marks.

One school district will emerge from state control thanks to its improving scores. Tunica County School District will return to local control after years of failing grades. The district earned a B for the second consecutive year.

Another school district under state stewardship, the Noxubee County School District, improved from a D to a C after scoring F grades each year since 2016.

These grades are partially based on students’ performance in several subjects and the annual progress made on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program tests for English language arts and mathematics, administered annually to students in the third through eighth grades and in high school.

Other components of the accountability grades are the four-year graduation rate, student performance on biology, U.S. history and ACT and student participation and performance in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement.

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