Is School Grading System Fair?

Last Thursday, the accreditation ratings for Mississippi schools were released. With a grading scale ranging from one to five, Meridian High received a 2.

Principal R.D. Harris said the rating is misleading. Here's why he says he holds that view.

To determine accreditation levels students are tested in everything from the basics in elementary to Biology I and Algebra I in High School.

Harris said, unlike many schools in this area, Meridian High serves students in 10th through 12 grades and therefore, is required to test only students who take introductory Biology I and Algebra I courses which students customarily take in the 9th grade.

"So, most of our students that come to us have already had Biology," Harris said. "But there are some students who get by, who fail, who come up to us. Those are the students that fall into our system."

In the end, Harris says the schools rating of a 2 is completely based upon the scores of 99 students who took the tests.

"When you stack us up against other schools that have 4 and 5 different variables and we only have one out of 1400 students, that is not fair," said Harris.

As part of the new "No Child Left Behind" legislation, these ratings were released for the first time this year.

To address his concern about the rating system, Harris has written a letter to the state board of education. He says several other large school districts have voiced the same concern.

With the board aware of the problem, Harris said he's confident that it will be addressed as soon as possible.

State school superintendent Dr. Henry Johnson told NewsCenter 11 Friday that the state school board will look into the matter.

The Mississippi Board of Education did approve rankings Friday for some 870 public schools, now under both state and federal accountability standards.

Seventeen schools face possible sanctions for not meeting standards on one or both of the accountability models.

The only school in east central Mississippi that made that list was Heidelberg High School. It's now listed on the state's priority list.

In the near future, a specially rained assessment team is expected to visit the school.