Like all school districts throughout the state of Mississippi, both New Albany and Union County School Districts learned the results of the school accountability rankings this week and the reactions are mixed.
While Union County schools have generally seen improvement in their test scores and rankings, New Albany remained somewhat stagnant compared to last year.
Under the new rating system, revealed in the fall of 2009, schools receive a ranking based on a scale, ranging from from “Star” to “Failing.” The system was designed by the Mississippi Department of Education for the purpose of increasing student scores on state standardized tests and examining which schools had individual students who showed improvement over the previous year. The system also judges high schools and school districts by graduation rates.
Union County showed an improvement in its Quality Distribution Index score, from 166 in 2008-09 to 169 in 2009-10. Both Ingomar and Myrtle Attendance Centers became “High Performing” schools this year, with Ingomar increasing its QDI by to 173 and Myrtle to 171. West Union, for the second year in a row, was named a “High Performing” school with a QDI of 175.
“We’re really excited about the results,” said Union County School District Superintendent Ken Basil. “Ingomar went up nine points this year, which we’re very proud of.”
Not all the news was good for the school district, however, as East Union Attendance Center is once again listed under “Academic Watch,” with a QDI of 160.
“Their tests scores did improve by two points,” Basil said. “But we didn’t meet growth in some areas. We’ve already got a plan in place that will hopefully help us improve our results next year.”
Meanwhile New Albany School District Superintendent Charles Garrett said there were mixed feelings about his district’s standings.
“Our overall QDI went down from a 181 last year to a 180 this year,” Garrett said. “It’s the first time in five years that our scores have not continued to improve. On the one hand we were a little disappointed that we didn't see an increase, but, on the other hand, we still are among the top 15 or so in the state, in terms of our scores.
The high school's QDI, which Garrett said is one of the higher in the state, remained at 192 for the second year in a row, which once again gave the school a “Successful” ranking. Though the elementary school's score dipped three points to 188, it remained a “High Performing” school. The middle school dropped two points to 169 and missed its growth achievement by a thousandth of a percent, Garrett said.
“Our actual score is higher than some of the school districts that received a higher accreditation than us,” Garrett said. “But the problem is that when you make the same score basically two years in a row, you lose ground under the new system.”
In fact, the new scale was designed with the idea in mind that ratings would increase year by year. Therefore, schools are required to consistently improve in their QDI numbers every year in order to achieve the same rankings.
Garrett said that the schools have plans in place to make sure that they see improvement next year.
“We are actually carrying forth with the plan that we have in place,” Garrett said. “The principals have all presented their plans to the school board. We are acclimating a lot of newer teachers into the system, because we had a lot of retirements last year. The major thrust of the plan, though is that we continue to have consistent growth every year.”