VWSD forced to adapt to changing metric

Published 7:48 pm Saturday, January 27, 2018

In what has become a yearly tradition in the state of Mississippi, the accountability score system that assigns A-F letter grades to public schools and districts throughout the state will be changing again. 

This year was expected to be the first time since 2010-11 that the state’s curriculum, testing and the scoring system were the same for two consecutive years. That changed thanks to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education dated Dec. 19 informed the state portions of the accountability metric didn’t comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed in 2015.

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“It was more frustrating the first time,” Vicksburg Warren School District superintendent Chad Shealy said of the constant changes. “It has almost become the norm and you’ve got to internalize the fact that we’ve got to teach kids. We are the ones responsible. We are going to move forward with the standards that are in place, teach to mastery and give kids what they need. They are just going to have to be the scores they are.”

The federal agency objected to a portion of the metric that identifies the bottom 25 percent of students and measures their growth as a separate portion of the metric.

“They go, this is the highest scoring number and this is the lowest scoring number,” Shealy said. “What they do is they take the 25 percentile cut score and that score becomes there and everything below that is your bottom 25 percent for the district. Then you have one for the schools and the schools do the same thing. You could technically have kids that are in that bottom 25 percentile that are proficient kids at Redwood, who are not in the bottom 25 percentile for the district.”

The federal agency also required the state to add in a metric for students learning English as a second language. VWSD is one of only 58 districts to have at least 10 English learners districtwide. Shealy said there are 53 such students in the district.

“Some buildings won’t be affected at all because some buildings don’t have EL students and if you don’t have an end count of at least 10, then it doesn’t count at all,” Shealy said.

Shealy said he pressed the state board of education to see what the timeline was for a new metric to be announced, but they had no answer.

“We are kind of used to it,” Shealy said. “It seems like the norm. We are going to continue moving forward with what we set in place and hopefully it won’t be negatively impactful. We don’t have enough information to know if it will help or hurt us.”

The VWSD Board of Trustees has been outspoken about the constantly changing metrics at the state level as they continually change after the board has already adopted its strategic plan for the year.

“We spend millions of dollars testing,” Board President Bryan Pratt said. “We spend millions of dollars on technology to test and every year they give us a reason why they have to fudge the score, change the score because there is something wrong with it. We need to go to a system where you take the guesswork out of it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.