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Mississippi Education Leaders Hear From Successful State

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 05 Sep 2012 05:05pm | comments
Christy Hovanetz

Mississippi education leaders are trying to determine if the state is sufficiently distinguishing good schools from bad. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the accountability Task Force heard from education experts from Florida....a state that has reformed how it measures school success.

Florida education reformersare sharing what they consider the secret to academic success....that secret is high standards and a robust accountability system.

The Accountability Taskforce....the group in charge of examining Mississippi's school rating system....met in Jackson yesterday to hear from Dr. Christy Hovanetz with the Florida based Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Hovanetz says when Florida schools reach A and B levels, they increase the standards for accountability.

"Every time we raised the standards we did see a marked decrease in the number of A and B schools we have in the state of Florida. But then the next year it bounced right back up to the previous levels or even better levels. So as soon as we raised the standards and new expectations were set. districts and schools and educators really found new ways to meet those expectations," Hovanetz said.

State Interim-Superintendent Dr. Lynn House says Mississippi is working to raise standards in its accountability system.

"When we went from MCT to MCT2 for instance, the standards were raised. When we went from the subject area test to subject area 2. That was about the raising of the standards. About totally re-framing what the assessments look like. As we move toward Common Core the same thing will happen," House said.

There are many other measures Florida uses to grade a school that Mississippi does not, such as graduation rates.

Forest Thigpen with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy says the state school board board has failed to increase accountability standards because it has not raised the bar that determines what grade a school receives.

"That was supposed to inch up every year but they have not increased it at all since 2009. So it is giving people an inaccurate view, even with the new A-through-F scores, it is giving an inaccurate view of the actual quality of their schools," Thigpen said.

Thigpen says if the bar had been raised the DeSoto County School District would only have one A-grade school instead of 10.

Governor Phil Bryant and other legislative leaders have targeted education reform as a key item to address in the upcoming legislative session.

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Christy Hovanetz


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