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Mississippi Schools Get One Year Break From Rating System

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 05 Jun 2014 04:22pm | comments
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Mississippi schools will not drop a letter grade this year even if their test results are poorer than previous years. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the problem is a mismatch between what the state is teaching and what it is testing.
Schools in Mississippi are currently graded on an A-through-F scale.
The federal department of education has given the state a one year waiver that will let schools retain their letter grade for the for the most recent school year.
Pete Smith with the Mississippi Department of Education says they asked for the hold on the letter grades because while schools are teaching new Common Core state standards, students still took the outdated assessment tests.
"In anticipation of the common core assessments coming on board for next year, last year the state board thought it would be a good incentive for districts to go ahead and fully implement the standards even though we knew we still had the MCT2 that wouldn't match the standards," Smith said.
The board has initially asked for a two year hold and Smith says they might ask for an extended waiver next year. 
Senator Gray Tollison runs the senate education committee and was a key player in establishing the letter grading system.
He supports the waiver and says schools will still have to report their results.
"But at the same time they will have to report their proficiency rates so we will know how they performed this year. But I think the superintendents and principals and teachers thought that we needed this for the transition," Tollison said.
The reason Mississippi needed federal approval dates back to No Child Left Behind and the state changing its accountability model to match federal standards.
That means a lot of federal money is tied to those results says Rachel Canter with the education advocacy group Mississippi First.....
"Historically because we have a lot of low income students that qualify for those funds, they are very important to our schools to provide and education to those kids," Canter said.
Students will begin taking common core aligned tests starting next year.


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