School accountability model complicated

Published 7:20 pm Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Vicksburg Warren School District has received its state accountability scores for 2017-18, and while scores improved — in some cases, dramatically — the district retained its overall D rating. How can this be?

As our Congressional district’s representative on the state’s Commission on School Accreditation, I have spent a great deal of time studying the accountability model, which was put in place to address federal requirements several years ago. The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law in December 2015, requiring certain standards to be measured and reported to the U.S. Department of Education. But each state determines how best to reflect and give weight to the various components of the accountability model. There are 50 different versions of accountability, and Mississippi’s is quite complex, as most are.

Members of the State Board of Education continue to work with the Commission on School Accreditation to assess strengths and unintended consequences of the scoring system. For example, students begin taking standardized state tests in the 3rd grade, but schools with only kindergarten through 2nd grade must receive a score. So regardless of the performance of current students at that school, it receives the score of the school their students will attend in the 3rd grade.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Graduation rates have steadily climbed in the VWSD, which is great news. But the metric actually only captures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of entering high school, not all who graduate from our school district. Similarly, a measure of “college and career readiness” only credits students who receive a 22 or higher on their ACT math and English exam scores. The Mississippi Department of Education is evaluating options for ensuring this component better reflects a student’s readiness to attend college or launch a career.

MDE officials continue to rely on input from the Commission on School Accreditation and others to improve the way in which our public schools are assessed and held accountable for performance, Meanwhile, I encourage those interested in the strength of our local schools to understand that while the model is important, there are many other ways of assessing your schools not captured in this complex and evolving model. Get involved here in Vicksburg-Warren County, and you will see firsthand the remarkable faculty and students we have, and the tremendous progress being made in preparing our youth for success, now and as adults.

Kelle Barfield is a Vicksburg native and is the current owner of Lorelei Books.