School Performance Up Slightly in Mississippi

Information released Friday by the Mississippi Department of Education shows 51 percent of the 152 school districts are successful, high-performing or considered a star district, the highest possible rating. Last year, that figure was 40 percent.

The rest of the school districts are under-performing.

Of the state's individual schools, 58 percent are successful or above. That's up from 49 percent in 2009.

The system is based on assessment tests, student growth and graduation rates, which are measured against the rest of the nation.

State education superintendent, Dr. Tom Burnham, said incremental progress has been made, but more work is needed.

The labels for school districts in east Mississippi are:
Meridian-At Risk of Failing
Lauderdale County-Successful
Enterprise-Star
Quitman-Successful
Newton-Successful
Newton County-Successful
Union-Successful
Philadelphia-Successful
Neshoba County-Successful
Kemper County-Failing

Meridian had one High-Performing school, one Successful school, four schools on Academic Watch, and four schools At Risk of Failing.

All Lauderdale County schools ranked Successful or higher.

"The credit goes to our principals, our teachers and our hard working students and our dedicated parents," said Lauderdale County superintendent Randy Hodges.

Meridian's interim superintendent, Dr. Randy McCoy, who came on board this summer, said the rankings for city schools does not mean progress is not being made.

He said this year 7 of the district's 10 schools achieved adequate yearly progress, which is also known as AYP. Plus, McCoy said four moved up one rating level, with two going from At Risk to Academic Watch, one from Academic Watch to Successful and another from Successful to High-Performing.

"Oakland Heights was 1/1000th of a point of making Academic Watch," said McCoy.

McCoy says, overall this year, the district is in what's called 'school improvement' status, due to a last minute change by the state which did not allow test scores from students with severe disabilities to be counted.

"We had 50 students in that category and our students did well," said McCoy. "The state chose to disallow all of those tests. Well, when they disallowed those tests, we went from being O.K. to going into 'school improvement'."

Dr. McCoy is now challenging the last-minute change with the state, in hopes of getting it overturned.

Meanwhile, he says improving test scores will continue to take time. To do this the district is focusing on teacher training and development and doing what you might call 'tailor-made teaching' for students.

"Now we do a lot of individualized instruction," said McCoy. "You don't teach the class any more; you really teach the individual students. We're making progress in the district."

Two of Kemper County's individual schools are Failing and a third is At Risk of Failing.

Those ratings, along with other problems in the Kemper County School District, are putting the system in danger of losing its accreditation.

State education officials are considering withdrawing the accreditation, after the system has consistently failed to fully comply with standards.

Kemper County schools missed eight of 37 accreditation standards this year. School officials say they have already corrected some of the issues.

Click the link below to view information about specific districts and schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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