The Mississippi Department of Education has been warning school districts and the public for months that the new, tougher accountability ratings were going to stun some people.
The previous accountability system had lulled schools and parents into thinking their students’ academic performance was better than it actually was. For the most part, the old system compared how Mississippi students performed academically in relation to students in other parts of the state. The new system compares how they perform in relation to students around the country.
As a result, there are a lot fewer superior schools and districts in Mississippi and a lot more that are failing or close to it. It’s not that the public schools in the state have gotten worse. It’s just that they and the public are getting a truer picture of really how they stack up nationally.
In Greenwood and Leflore County, the first year’s ratings, which were released Monday, are disappointing. Both districts have been listed as “At Risk of Failing,” the third lowest of the seven accountability levels. Although Greenwood officials say they feel their rating is undeservedly low and are pursuing an appeal, even if the district moves up a notch to “Academic Watch,” that’s still not good enough.
Between the two school districts, only three schools out of 13 are rated “Successful” (the third highest ranking) or better. One of those, T.Y. Fleming in Minter City, was shut down this year because of low enrollment.