U.S. Department of Education grants Mississippi one-year waiver on accountability letter grades

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Mississippi Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approved a one-year waiver from school letter grades for the 2013-14 school year as Mississippi transitions to college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments.

The ED notified the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) late Tuesday of its approval of MDE's request for a one-year transitional timeline, which will apply to accountability letter grades released this fall for the 2013-14 school year. The waiver will allow a school to retain the letter grade it received in the 2012-13 school year if the 2013-14 grade is lower as a result of assessment results.

However, the ED's approval is based upon Mississippi's commitment to report all assessment data from the 2013-14 assessments, including school letter grades based upon 2013-14 assessment results, and to require interventions in all Title I schools that miss annual goals for two consecutive years.

"We are confident that these measures will help to ensure that all schools are held accountable for student achievement, while also acknowledging that this is a time of transition," stated Dr. Monique Chism, director of student achievement and school accountability programs at the ED, in the notification.

The MDE, at the request of the Mississippi Board of Education, made the appeal to ED because current state tests are not aligned to Common Core State Standards, meaning tests are not measuring what students are currently learning. In 2010 the Board adopted Common Core State Standards, and school districts began implementation of the standards. New state tests aligned to the new standards will be implemented in spring 2015.

Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said she was pleased that the ED recognized the hard work of teachers, students, and school and district leaders in implementing Common Core State Standards and understood the challenge of transitioning to new standards and assessments.

"I appreciate the ED's approval of our request, and we will continue to work toward providing our students every opportunity for a high-quality education. The MDE looks forward to working with schools and districts in helping them to meet these more rigorous standards," she said.