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Mississippi’s education...

Mississippi’s education accountability scores on the rise

By: Jeremy Pittari - September 28, 2023

A teacher at Long Beach Middle School watches as her students read a paragraph. The Long Beach School District recently received an assessment grade of A, ranking second in the state. Long Beach Middle School received a grade of A. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Mississippi schools continue to perform above expectations coming out of COVID, with 91 percent of school districts receiving a grade of “C” or better.

This week, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released accountability grades for the state’s schools and school districts, indicating that gains continue post-COVID. 

87 percent of schools and 91 percent of school districts received a grade of “C” or better for the 2022-2023 school year.

In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law requiring the state to implement an A-F accountability system to help “teachers, school leaders, parents and communities
know how well their local schools and districts are serving their students,” according to MDE.

“I’m proud to say that Mississippi has resumed its momentum from before the pandemic. This year’s grades show the great job that teachers, school leaders, staff and parents have done in helping students overcome the disruptions of the pandemic. We’re especially proud of the gains made by school districts under state leadership because of poor academic performance or state of emergency,” said Interim State Superintendent of Education Dr. Raymond Morgigno.

“For example, Tunica County School District maintained a B for the second consecutive year. They achieved a C in 2018, improving on its four year track record of D and F grades. We’re excited to announce that Tunica will return to local control in January of 2024.”

For comparison, grades from the prior school year show that 81 percent of schools and 87 percent of districts earned a C or better, the release states. 

According to MDE, “Mississippi’s school grading system considers several indicators, including how well students perform on state tests, whether students are showing improvement on those tests from year to year and whether students are graduating within four years. The system also factors in how well schools are helping English learners and their lowest-achieving students make progress toward proficiency.”

“These achievements we’ve seen across our state show what’s possible for all schools and districts. And MDE will continue supporting all school districts in their work to ensure that every student is successful,” Morgigno said.

He went on to say that he is pleased to see the proficiency rates continue to rise, especially coming out of the 2020 pandemic.

“Honestly we were a little concerned last year when we had such…strong results. We thought that would be the COVID bump with some of our growth, but our schools maintained that, and so we really proud to see that, especially in our elementary schools that they just continue to move forward,” Morgigno said.

With the pandemic came additional funding that helped spur several changes, including purchasing computers for all students, digital curriculum subscriptions and training for teachers. The extra funding is expected to end in September of next year. School districts that wish to continue receiving subscription based services will be responsible for those costs after that time, the release states. 

When asked if Morgigno expects to see a dip in performance after the additional funding runs out, he mostly expressed confidence in the state’s education system.

“I would be telling you a story if I said we weren’t a little concerned about that. It’s been great having the resources for our school districts and for our state to provide so much training for our teachers. It’s been great to see what can happen when you have the resources to do that. But also we never want to get in the game of making excuses, and so our expectation is that we continue this and we’re gonna…work hard and as I said a few minutes ago I think success brings success. And I don’t see anyone lowering their standards, we just might have to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, but that’s kind of what we do here in Mississippi,” he said.

With so many districts increasing their grades, room for growth could diminish. Morgigno said that when 65 percent of the state’s districts reach a grade of B or better, MDE will have to raise its standards for the letter grades under Mississippi law.

Morgigno cautioned the public that some waivers are still in place due to the pandemic, so some small fluctuations may be seen in the future. 

“You remember, during that time, those kids were not required to pass the state assessment. So you still have some part of the COVID disruptions, but this is the last year we will see those disruptions,” he said.

District 120 Representative Richard Bennett, who is also the chair of the Education Committee, also commended the state’s districts for their hard work. 

“This year’s accountability grades show the quality and strength of Mississippi’s public schools. Mississippi’s public school system is now the envy of the nation because our students continue to make faster gains than nearly every other state. I congratulate and appreciate every teacher and school employee who helped Mississippi students achieve greater gains,” he said. 

The school districts with the top five highest scores were Ocean Springs School district with a score of 810, Long Beach School District (797), Clinton Public School District (782), Petal School District (766) and Neshoba School District (766).

The top five schools within the state were West Harrison High School (916), Ocean Springs High School (903), Long Beach High School (893), Ripley High School (889) and Poplarville High School (882).

District 106 Representative Jansen Owen, who lives in the Poplarville School District, said he is proud of the accomplishments the districts across the state have made. 

“The growth and improvement shown in this year’s accountability scores demonstrates the tremendous work of our students and educators. Investing time, hard work, and, of course, money into our public schools pays dividends. I am excited to see what the future holds for Mississippi’s students and teachers. Job well done,” Owen said.

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy: