Sep. 27—TUPELO — Accountability grades for both Tupelo and Lee County schools are on track to be a mix of good and bad.
The Commission on School Accreditation (CSA) presented 2021-22 school year accountability grades for Mississippi's K-12 schools and districts Tuesday. The accountability grades presented by the CSA are unofficial until approved by the Mississippi State Board of Education during its next monthly meeting, scheduled for Thursday.
Tupelo Public School District grades by school
— Joyner Elementary School — A (previously B)
— Lawndale Elementary School — A (previously B)
— Rankin Elementary School — A (previously B)
— Tupelo Middle School — A (previously B)
Grade stayed the same
— Early Childhood Education Center — A
— Carver Elementary School — A
— Parkway Elementary School — B
— Thomas Elementary School — A
— Lawhon Elementary School — A
— Milam Elementary School — B
— Tupelo High School — B
— Pierce Street Elementary School — B (previously A)
Lee County School District grades by school
— Saltillo High School — B (previously C)
— Shannon Primary School — B (previously C)
— Shannon Elementary School — B (previously C)
— Shannon High School — D (previously F)
Grade stayed the same
— Mooreville Elementary School — A
— Mooreville Middle School — B
— Mooreville High School — B
— Saltillo Elementary School — B
— Verona Elementary School — F
— Plantersville Middle School — F
— Saltillo Primary School — C (previously A)
— Guntown Middle School — C (previously B)
— Shannon Middle School — D (previously C)
It's the first time since the 2018-19 school year that new grades have been assigned to Mississippi schools.
Mississippi schools and districts are graded on an A-F scale based on several components of student learning and growth, including proficiency in ELA, mathematics and science; English learner progress toward becoming proficient in the English language; performance on the ACT and high school end-of-course exams; student participation and performance in advanced coursework and the four-year graduation rate.
Schools within both the Tupelo and Lee County school districts were a mix of good and bad, although most schools maintained their grades from the previous assessment.
In Tupelo, Joyner Elementary School, Lawndale Elementary School, Rankin Elementary School and Tupelo Middle School each improved in their accountability grades, while Pierce Street Elementary School was the lone school within the district to drop a letter grade. All other schools maintained their letter grades from the previous year.
Lee County School District saw a similar mix of rising and falling grade levels. Saltillo High School and three schools in Shannon — Primary, Elementary, and High School — all improved, while Saltillo Primary School, Guntown Middle School and Shannon Middle School all saw their grades drop. All other schools within the districts maintained their previous grade levels.
Grades reflect many factors
The grades are published to help teachers, school leaders, parents and communities know how well students are being served.
Dr. Kim Benton, interim state superintendent of education, said the overall percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced largely returned to pre-pandemic rates, which affected the 2021-22 accountability grades.
Approximately 81% of Mississippi schools and 87% of districts will be rated C or higher for the 2021-22 school year.
Though overall grades appear to have improved significantly since 2019, Benton said MDE advises caution when interpreting score changes between the 2018-19 pre-pandemic and 2021-22 school years.
Shifts in student performance may prove to be temporary, a result of three pandemic-related several factors.
The first is the decline in student achievement seen during the 2020-21 school year and the subsequent rebound seen during the 2021-22 school year.
Mississippi teachers made more progress than is typically seen in one year as schools focused on accelerating learning after the first year of the pandemic to address learning loss. Since the accountability system relies heavily on student growth from one year to the next, Benton said it will be challenging for schools and districts to maintain grades that improved considerably in 2021-22.
"While additional academic support will continue to be provided for students, some of our students may have already rebounded from their achievement decline during the pandemic, and their rate of growth may return to those pre-pandemic rates," Benton said. "It's important to keep in mind that more than half of the grade for our elementary and middle schools is based on student growth, and growth makes up one third of our high school and district grades."
The second factor is testing waivers. In 2020-21, the passing requirements for Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History assessments were waived. That will positively affect graduation rates until all students who tested under the waivers graduate.
The third factor is temporary one-year adjustments made to the accountability system. Adjustments were made to the system for the 2021-22 school year to account for missing data from the 2019-20 school year and previous year. As a result, current grades are not easily comparable to past or future years.
"While the stability of our accountability system allows the state to continue to evaluate schools and districts over the long term, the 2021-22 school and district grades should be viewed in the context of the pandemic," Benton said. "We will likely see some variability in A-F grades over the next few years as the pandemic disruptions work their way out of our accountability system. Educators and students across Mississippi are to be commended for their hard work and intentionality in closing learning gaps for our students."
Accountability grades for the 2021-22 school year, and other years, can be found on MDE's website at mdek12.org/OPR/Reporting/Accountability.