Making the Grade

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A preliminary report shows that slightly more than half of Mississippi's 870 public schools have fallen short of new federal performance standards.

This year, 454 schools rated Level Four, exemplary, and level five, superior performing, on the Mississippi Accountability System, compared with 376 last year.

The number of schools considered low performing, or Level One, this year dropped from 31 to eight. There was only a slight increase in the number of schools meeting "adequate yearly progress'' in every category of No Child Left Behind.

The report on standards set by the federal law was released by the state Department of Education. The accountability report won't be final until the board approves it next week.

This is Mississippi's second year of an accountability system that is growing tougher on schools that don't improve student test scores.

"To jump two levels, which two of our schools did is a great feat, a result of their smart and hard work," said Meridian superintendent Sylvia Autry. "But I will certainly be focused on the level one school."

Taking the good with the bad, Autry said she's pleased overall with this year's levels. However, with two level 2 schools and one level 1, she said she knows things have to get better.

"The things that we have put into place this year have worked well," Autry said. "We will continue those things and incorporate others things, especially in the area of data analysis."

Lauderdale County school superintendent David Little said he could not be more pleased with four of the county schools at a level 5.

"Those principals that had level 5 schools, we would like to congratulate them," said Little. "Those that are level 4 know that it is only temporary and we are going to work to make improvements."

Several area schools did extremely well this year. Enterprise and Newton County Schools had level 5 at all of their schools. Neshoba County faired well, too, with its 3 schools bringing in a level 4.

While Philadelphia Middle School came out on top with a Level 5, the elementary and high school both had a level 3, which is successful.

Quitman Junior High School and Quitman Elementary were at a level 3, Quitman High School scored a level 4.

Newton City Schools scored level 3 at each campus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.