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State Board of Education resets baseline for school district rating system

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications, Inc.

JACKSON, Miss – The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted today to reset the baseline scores for assigning school and district letter grades starting in the 2017-18 school year and to assign districts and schools letter grades for 2016-17 based on the highest grade they are able to achieve under the current or new baseline for 2017-18.

Accountability letter grades for the 2016-17 school year will be released in October.

The SBE decision followed a recommendation from the Commission on School Accreditation (CSA), the statewide Accountability Task Force and the Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to set a new baseline to correct artificially high growth rates included in the 2015-16 accountability grades.

After the release of the 2015-16 accountability results, some districts raised concerns that their growth rates were abnormally high and could not be sustained over subsequent years. The growth rates were based on multiple assessment programs that were administered over a multi-year period. The MDE needed two years of results from the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) to conduct an analysis of the data and to establish a stable baseline.

The SBE decided to implement the recommendation with two changes:

The new baseline scores will be applied to letter grades starting with the 2017-18 school year, rather than 2016-17.
For the 2016-17 letter grades, districts and schools will be awarded the highest grade they are able to achieve based on current thresholds or the new baseline for 2017-18.
The highest grade will be the official grade, though both possible grades will be published for transparency.

“The Board’s decision comes after a great deal of thoughtful deliberation and consideration of what is in the best interest of all districts, schools and students,” said Rosemary Aultman, SBE chair. “We recognize that all districts are working incredibly hard to improve student achievement and that letter grades inform the public about school and district performance. One of the Board’s goals is for every school and district in the state to earn a “C” grade or higher, and we are committed to helping all districts achieve this goal.”

The 2016-17 accountability grades include a measure of growth that is based on students taking MAAP tests for two years in a row. This is the first year with MAAP to MAAP results in which growth is measured with the same assessments and is accurately portrayed. This is the reason that a new baseline must be established.

The 2016-17 MAAP results show overall proficiency increased in both English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. District- and school-level results were released today.

The SBE voted to use the percentile ranks currently in the SBE policy to set new cut scores to earn a grade along the A-F scale. The new cut scores will be announced when 2016-17 accountability results are released in October.

In 2018 and beyond, the 2017 cut scores will continue to be used for grade assignment. For the vast majority of districts, the change in cut scores will not affect their grade along the A-F scale.

“In fairness to districts, we want to give them ample time to know the expectations for performance to achieve each grade. This change will give districts another school year to work toward their goals and will provide all education stakeholders with a true picture of school and district performance from year to year,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “As student achievement continues to improve, those achievements will be reflected in the grades schools and districts earn.”

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