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Vote delayed on new A-to-F scoring scale for high schools

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi education leaders may reset part of the grading scale for schools for the third year in a row, but the decision won’t be made for another few days.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to delay deciding on a new scoring scale for high school A-to-F grades, returning the issue to the state School Accreditation Commission for more discussion.

Education officials said if they don’t make the change, the state will have few A-rated high schools and many F-rated high schools when grades are released next month. However, members of the Accreditation Commission complained Tuesday they were rushed into making a recommendation with little time for consideration. Resetting the scale is unpopular with some who say it creates a moving target for improvement efforts.

“We keep saying we’re not going to do this anymore,” said board member Johnny Franklin of Bolton.

State Superintendent Carey Wright, though, said it’s unrealistic to expect the state’s accountability to be “set in stone.”

The Board of Education plans a special meeting next week to make a decision. Grading scales for districts, elementary schools and middle schools would be unaffected.

The state has been struggling with how to compare year-to-year performance during a period when the state administered different tests three years in a row.

Last year, the state Board of Education reset score levels, which could have resulted in fewer highly graded high schools. But the state allowed schools to use the higher grades they would have received without changes. That resulted in 50 of 238 high schools getting A’s, while only four high schools got failing grades. But the changes were supposed to take effect this year, resulting in only 7 high schools getting A’s and 60 getting F’s. Officials said they believed that was an unjust outcome.

“It’s not about the number of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s in the districts,” said Chief Accountability Officer Paula Vanderford. “It’s about ensuring that the assessment data is an accurate reflection of how students are performing in the classroom.

There are also some questions about how high schools actually performed in 2017-2018. Algebra I proficiency levels rose among high school students last year, but English II proficiency levels fell. That’s in part due to a change in how the English II test was scored. Growth in test scores was lower last year than the year before, although those issues remain cloudy because of comparison problems between different tests.

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