Lower Elementary School Ratings May Cause Heartburn

Posted 10/16/17

If your lower elementary school's rating is not what you think it should be, I might have an explanation for you: its rating is based on test scores from another school.

The feds require that all schools be rated. Mississippi's state accountability testing begins in grade three. That creates a challenge when it comes to rating lower elementary schools that have no tested grades (i.e., K-1 or K-2 schools).

Mississippi's accountability model assigns ratings for lower elementary schools without a tested grade using the test scores of the students in the next highest tested grade who attended the lower elementary school and are still in the district. Put more simply, they get their scores from the performance of their students after those students go on to the next school and are tested in grades three and four.

Elementary schools are graded on two primary factors:
1. proficiency (how much students know, or how well they score on the test)
2. academic growth (how much students have learned from one year to the next as measured by state tests)

Proficiency scores for K-1 and K-2 schools come from third-graders in the next school, and academic growth scores come from fourth graders - two or three years after those students have left the lower elementary school. This causes serious heartburn for lower elementary educators who find their schools rated based on teaching over which they have no control.

It's worth noting that the teacher incentive bonuses that were passed by the Legislature are based on school ratings.

Of particular concern is the fact that academic growth from grade three to grade four in English Language Arts is especially low statewide this year. Academic growth counts for 400 of the total possible 700 points for elementary schools, putting K-2 schools at a serious disadvantage. Certainly, the quality of the teaching in kindergarten, first, and second grades has an impact on proficiency in grade three. It's harder to make the argument that the quality of teaching that occurred several years back affects academic growth from grade three to grade four.

Ratings for all Mississippi schools and districts will be announced later this week. Watch your inbox and our Facebook for that news, and thanks, as always, for your support of public education!

Nancy Loome
Executive Director