By Joseph McCain
The Winston County Journal
One of the Louisville Municipal School District schools is among the state’s highest rated this year with the rest of the schools showing improvement, according to accountability results released by the Mississippi Department of Education on Sept. 13.
Nanih Waiya earned an A rating while Noxapater improved to a B rating. Eiland Middle School and Louisville Elementary received C ratings while Louisville High School gained a D rating. The district overall earned a C rating.
“We are excited to have our first A,” said Superintendent Ken McMullan. “This is a credit to the teachers, students, parents and staff at Nanih Waiya.”
Each year, the state evaluates districts and individual schools based on several factors, such as achievement on the Mississippi Curriculum Test-2 and Subject Area Testing Program assessments, academic growth and graduation rates.
Quality of Distribution Index, or QDI, helps determine the state accountability model’s labels, which are rated on a grade scale as A, B, C, D or F.
QDI is a formula — ranging from zero to 300 — that measures student performance and how well schools move their students between the state tests’ proficiency levels. Basically, each school received their letter grade rating based upon the school’s Quality of Distribution Index plus its 4 and 5 year graduation rates. The QDI is gained from the students’ performance on state testing.
Superintendent McMullan added that the moving into the A rating for Nanih Waiya and its Quality of Distribution Index at 198 from 192 in 2012 was based upon Principal David Luke’s use of the 2012 test data to target students and the areas they needed help in.
“Mr. Luke did a really good job with the data,” said Superintendent McMullan. “He has shown gradual increases each year and he works with the teachers to move as many students as possible from minimal and basic to proficient and advanced.”
Noxapater improved to a B rating. Noxapater’s QDI of 162 improved over its 2012 QDI of 152 yet its meeting the growth standards and high graduation rate of 79.5 which raised its score to a B standard.
“The jumped from a D to B because it (Noxapater Attendance Center) met growth and graduation,” said Superintendent McMullan.
Superintendent McMullan added that the district was excited to see the A and B for Nanih Waiya and sustaining that at the two schools was key.
“The key now is Nanih Waiya and Noxapater maintaining their ratings and moving Noxapater to an A,” said Superintendent McMullan. “Noxapater could be an A school but they do have a long way to go with their QDI.”
Eiland Middle School moved from a D in 2012 to a C in 2013. Eiland Middle School students moved from a 138 QDI to a 146 QDI.
“The key ingredient to Eiland’s success was its great math scores for the 8th grade testing,” said Superintendent McMullan. “The consultants for the math teachers really helped and the teacher’s embraced it.”
Overall for Eiland, the trends in all areas show improvement noted Superintendent McMullan. He added that the changes and turnover over at Eiland will be a challenge and why the school district is targeting that school for improvements. He added that getting all students at Eiland reading on a proficient level was key to raising Louisville High School’s scores in the future.
Louisville High School received a D rating this year which improved over its F rating in 2012. Louisville High School jumped from a 125 to a 142 for a 17 point improvement yet could not meet growth for moving enough students into proficient and advanced portions of the state testing.
“We have room for improvement,” said Superintendent McMullan.
The improvements according to Superintendent McMullan start with focusing on the students at Fair Elementary to improve all grade levels as those students progress forward.
“With our 3, 4,5 grade students, they are scoring well into the 170 range which with growth would make Louisville Elementary a B school,” said Superintendent McMullan.
Louisville’s Elementary’s scores also reflect on Fair Elementary since under the state model the feeder elementary school is graded according to LES’s scores.
“We are producing to the students at Fair and Louisville Elementary to gain B schools,” said McMullan. “The DREAM grant will help those schools improve as well especially the at risk students.”
There were no local F-rated schools. Statewide, 15 districts received failing grades, down from 20 districts the year before. The state QDI average was 168 with Louisville Municipal District scoring a 159.
This year’s ratings will stick with the schools and districts for the next two years — unless a school happens to improve in the next year, in which case it may claim the higher letter grade — as the state moves toward Common Core standards and assessments.
Common Core is basically a set of standards that defines what students are expected to learn in each grade. While emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving, it is meant to nationally standardize the skills and knowledge children will have when they graduate.
“We are going full common core,” said Superintendent McMullan. “If we do it right there is no reason that all of schools should not continue to improve.”
Schools are implementing the Common Core state standards this academic year, but they won’t be tested on those standards yet. Mississippi children will instead take the MCT-2 again this year.
MCT-2 will disappear in the 2014-2015 school year, and the Common Core’s new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment will take over.
The state has agreed to implement the two-year pause on accountability labels to give schools time to transition from the current curriculum to Common Core.
In fall 2016, schools will receive a new A-F grade based on the PARCC assessment (instead of MCT-2 results) and a new state and federal combined accountability model.
That new accountability model has been released for public comment from the Mississippi Board of Education.
Superintendent McMullan noted that the present scores and the future district improvement are the focus.
“It will be hard work for everybody involved,” said Superintendent McMullan. “We want to see the districts QDI continue to improve every year.”
McMullan noted that targeting students to move to proficient and advance so that all schools are B or better soon.
“It goes back to the parents and the students, of course, and then the teachers pushing them to do their best,”said Superintendent McMullan. “Our goal is to build on this year’s score and continue to grow.”
Superintendent McMullan noted that improvement was based upon solid foundation.
“Parents can rest assured that their students are in a good, solid school system where they are getting the education they need to be successful as we continue to work hard on rigor and protecting instructional time for our students,” Superintendent McMullan. “We realize that there is still much work to be done.”
‘The business of educating children is too important of a job to be taken lightly,” added Superintendent McMullan.
The district is working on the new standards and working to with the staff, teachers and administrators to examine all the data and factors to ensure the students are receiving all the help they need.
“It takes a collaborative effort among students, staff, parents and community,” said Superintendent McMullan. “Our students are and must continue to take more ownership of their academic achievement.”
Dr. Lynn J. House, interim state superintendent of education, said the main factor contributing to the rise in “A” districts was that graduation rates were added back to the accountability model, and for the first time, graduation rates applied to all districts. Previously, graduation rates only applied to the higher performing districts that fall under grades “A” and “B.” In 2012, at the request of the Accountability Task Force, the Mississippi Board of Education suspended the use of graduation rates in the accountability model to allow for the development of a fair and equitable system that held all districts and schools accountable.
“Districts have worked diligently at keeping students in schools and helping them to graduate. The schools, districts and communities should be commended for their hard work and accomplishments around student achievement,” House said.
Schools earning the “A” status increased by 36 percent and the number of “B” schools increased slightly from last year, from 213 to 218 schools. The number of “D” schools decreased by nearly 20 percent and the number of “C” schools increased by around 6 percent.
“While we are pleased to see the double-digit increase in the number of “A” schools this year, we know that more work must be done to help our lower performing schools,” said Dr. Wayne Gann, chairman of the Board. “We must continue to provide resources and assistance to schools so that all students have the opportunity for higher achievement.”
The state’s QDI is 168, up from 162 in 2012. Growth, on the other hand, is based on whether students demonstrate performance equal to or better than expected based on how they performed the previous school year. U.S. History and grades 5 and 8 Science were included in the achievement component this year.
For the 2012-13 school year only, the Board approved two methods to calculate the graduation component of the accountability system. The first method used the five-year graduation rate/High School Completion Index (HSCI) and the second method used the four-year graduation rate. The school/district received the higher performance classification based on the results of the two methods. The High School Value (HSV) is the QDI added to the four-year graduation rate.
The 2012-13 school year marks the last time that QDI, HSCI, HSV and five-year graduation rates will be used. A new accountability model has been proposed, and it is anticipated to be released for public comment following the Mississippi Board of Education meeting on Sept. 13.
Schools in conservatorship also had gains. Of the 31 schools that MDE operates, 17 had increases in QDI, nine of which were double-digit gains, and 21 met their growth expectation. All of the schools in Oktibbeha County, the most recent takeover, made their growth expectations. Additionally, schools at-risk and those who received a school improvement grant also made improvements.
The 2013 results reflect a five-year trend of increasing numbers of top-performing schools and decreasing numbers of lower performing schools. The letter grading system will provide communities a clear understanding of how their schools and districts are performing upon full implementation of the more rigorous college- and career-ready standards in 2014-15.
To view the complete 2013 Accountability results for schools and districts visit http://ors.mde.k12.ms.us/report/lettergrade.aspx. .