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Mississippi School Board Stands By One Year Removal Of Graduation Rates

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Sep 2012 02:08pm | comments

Many Mississippi parents, law makers and public education advocates are criticizing a decision by the state school board to not including graduation rates when issuing school and district grades. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the board is standing by the decision.

Not factoring the graduation rates in the school rating system bumped up 10 school districts and 26 schools to a 'B' letter grade they would not otherwise have earned.

State school board chairman Dr. Wayne Gann says including graduation rates punished high performing schools because it only applied to 'A' and 'B' schools.

"The only thing that did not happen was that if a school was a 'star' school we did not look over and say 'OK, well your graduation rate was 79% so therefore we drop you a level'. That is the only thing that did not happen. All the date is reported just like it has always been," Gann said.

The decision has drawn sharp criticism from many Mississippians.

Rachel Canter with the education reform group Mississippi First says this gives parents and students a false perception of a school's performance.

"We have school districts rated 'B' in the state of Mississippi that have less than a 75% graduation rate. And that should just not be possible because that is not success," Canter said.

A handful of Mississippians wrote the board opposing the decision, saying it sends the message that graduation rates don't matter and diminishes the efforts of schools that did make the targets.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves agrees.

"I didn't think that was a good idea at the time. I do understand the challenges that the state department of education are trying to solve because they think it ought to apply across the board. I agree with that. We just send the wrong message when we say graduation rates are not important," Reeves said.

School board member Dr. Wayne Gann says graduation rates will be reintroduced next year, but in a more comprehensive way.

"With the understanding we are looking for improvement, not retreat. We want the accountability system to be improved rather than weakened. And we have every intention of that being the case," Gann said.

Gann says the graduation rates are still being reported so parents, students, and school leaders can still see how well their school is doing if they choose.

You can read the letters to the school board here.

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