Columbus Municipal and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated school districts both moved up a letter grade in the Mississippi Department of Education’s Accountability Ratings, while Lowndes County remains the region’s only A public school district.
For the first time since 2019, school districts and individual schools have received accountability grades, which are federally mandated by the U.S. Department of Education. Each district is graded on an A-F scale by the Mississippi Department of Education with 1,000 being the highest possible number grade.
These grades are unofficial and are set to be approved by the Mississippi State Board of Education on Thursday.
Accountability scores are based on several factors. According to MDE, the scores for the 2021-22 school year are based on student proficiency and growth rates in English language arts and math in grades 3-8; growth of the lowest performing 25 percent of students in ELA and math, science proficiency in grades 5 and 8; and English learner progress toward becoming proficient in the English language.
High school accountability grades include the four-year graduation rate, student performance on biology, U.S. History and ACT tests, and student participation and performance in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement and dual enrollment classes.
Because there were challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some students lack a comparable assessment score from the 2020-21 school year. However, MDE said in a press release that overall students still made significant progress between 2020-21 and 2021-22, as schools focused on accelerating learning after the first year of the pandemic.
The passing requirements for high school Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History assessments were waived in 2020-21, which will affect the graduation rate until all students who tested under the waivers graduate.
Kim Benton, interim state superintendent of education, said she is confident the accelerated learning to catch up with pre-pandemic numbers will continue.
“After the early setbacks of the pandemic, Mississippi educators provided an enormous amount of support to help students recover from the interruptions to teaching and learning,” Benton said. “I am confident this work will continue to close achievement gaps and ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce.”
Columbus Municipal School District
CMSD earned an overall C rating for 2021-22, breaking its more than decade-long slump as a D district.
In 2019, the district received 514 points out of 1,000, and it was only 22 points away from 536 to receive a C. The score improved to a 547, surpassing the minimum to receive a C by 11 points.
CMSD Assessment, Curriculum and Professional Development Coordinator Debbie Murray said the district improvement would not be possible without staff’s hard work and dedication to the students and the district is intent on growing.
“It feels good to see our staff’s hard work showing up in the student achievement increases,” Murray said. “… Currently, we are focused on increasing student proficiency rates across the district. Our accountability model is based on both achievement and growth. We cannot simply be happy that our scores increased. We have to continue to focus on the growth of each student — just maintaining the status we have achieved will not be enough.”
Three schools saw grades increase from 2019. Franklin Academy improved from a D to a C, and Sale Elementary improved from a F to a D.
The largest improvement is at Cook Elementary which improved from a D to a B. Murray credited Cook’s veteran leadership for the improvement.
“When you look at Cook Elementary, I will first say that Cook had many of the same resources and employed many of the same instructional strategies as our other schools,” Murray said. “It was advantageous to have continuity in the Cook staff. By that I mean, staff turnover was not as great. Without having anything statistical to back this response up, I would say it was advantageous for the school to be led by a veteran educator. Principal Billie Smith has a wealth of knowledge. Equally important, if not more important than those things, would be the high levels of parent involvement and engagement that existed at Cook.”
The scores for Columbus Middle and Fairview Elementary were the same as 2019. CMS remains the same as the district’s only F campus, and Fairview maintained its D grade.
Columbus High and Stokes Beard Elementary both saw a decrease in scores. Both dropped to a C from the B each received in 2019.
Murray said analyzing the data and understanding where each school can improve is critical at schools such as CMS, Fairview and Sale — the schools with D and F grades. She also said the district is optimistic for the veteran leadership at the schools.
“For 2022-23, both Fairview and Sale have new administrators who are both veteran educators at the helm,” Murray said. “These two new principals know the district, and they are already implementing some changes in instructional strategies. At our middle school, we are looking at different evidence-based models that have proven effective in middle schools. … Middle schools are tough, but we are not using that statement as an excuse for us not achieving the levels we are trying to reach. We know that we have to meet our students where they are and help them to grow.”
Lowndes County School District
While LCSD remains an A district, its overall score improved from a 688 in 2019 to a 697 for the 2021-22 school year. It is one of the 45 districts in Mississippi to receive an A.
LCSD is the only district in the region with no schools graded under a C. In 2019, the only school to receive a D was West Lowndes High School which improved to a C. Superintendent Sam Allison said the district will continue to support the growth at WLHS.
“Accountability scores are a culmination of the hard work by our students, teachers, and support staff throughout the school year,” Allison said. “We are very proud that all our schools either maintained their level from 2019 or moved up a level. In order to maintain an accountability level or move to a higher level, it requires student growth. We will continue to support that growth.”
West Lowndes Elementary saw improvement as well and brought its grade up from a C to a B, and the last time the school received that grade was in 2018.
Four schools within the district received an A grade, up from two in 2019. Caledonia Elementary and New Hope Elementary maintained their As, but Caledonia Middle and Caledonia High improved from a B to an A.
New Hope Middle and New Hope High maintained the B grade received in 2019.
Allison said he is proud of the work teachers, support staff and administrators have done to help the district maintain its A rating despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
“We are proud to have maintained the district’s A-rating given the challenges of the last two years,” Allison said. “Without the hard work of our students, teachers, and support staff, this rating would not have been possible. We faced learning loss and access problems just as other schools and districts throughout the country. Even though we did not have scores for the (2019-20) school year and the scores from (2020-21) did not count toward accountability, our students and teachers worked hard through the challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District
SOCSD has moved from a C district to a B district.
Because this school year is SOCSD Superintendent Tony McGee’s first at the helm of the district, he was sure to congratulate and credit former SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant, who retired in June.
“I know he had a lot of work in that (improvement),” McGee said “… We’re proud for him as he retired with that B-level status here in the Starkville-Oktibbeha School District.”
West Elementary is the only school to receive an A in the district, which is an improvement from the B it received in 2019. Starkville High School also saw an increase in its grade. SHS improved from a C to a B school.
The biggest improvement in grades goes to Overstreet Elementary. The fifth grade school improved from a D to a B.
Sudduth Elementary and Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary maintained their C grades from 2019, and Armstrong Junior High School maintained its D grade from 2019. AJHS is the lowest grade and only D in the district.
McGee said the district is continuing to look at all areas it can improve, and he is proud of the work teachers and administrators have put in to help their students. For this school year, McGee said the district is looking at not only maintaining the B grade but improving it as well.
“Our curriculum team is working very hard,” McGee said. “(Christy Maulding, deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction) has put together an academic plan to go into this school year. Our team at the Greensboro Center has been working with the team leaders out in the schools. We have lead teachers still out in the schools, and we’ve also brought in some specialists that deal with things like English-learning students and mathematics.”
West Point, Noxubee schools
West Point Consolidated School District received an overall C rating.
Four of six schools in WPCSD received a B. Those four include South Side Elementary, Church Hill Elementary, East Side Elementary and Fifth Street School.
Both West Point High School and West Clay Elementary received D ratings.
Noxubee County School District received an overall D rating.
Earl Nash Elementary School and B.F. Liddell Middle School both received a D, and Noxubee County High School received a C rating.
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