HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - At first glance, state test scores in Mississippi are steady- many exactly the same as last year- in the wake of teaching under new standards.
But because the 2013-2014 school year was a transition year into a full implementation of Common Core State Standards, schools were given the choice to use their same test results from the previous year, or use the ones from this past school year, whichever was better. The issue for many districts is that they were already teaching students under CCSS, but the state had not transitioned into testing under those standards, therefore causing a drop in performance.
"When you first look at it, you think… what happened?" said Lamar County interim superintendent Tess Smith. "But the difference is we're not comparing apples to apples, we're comparing apples to oranges."
Every school district in the WDAM viewing area maintained the same "grade" from 2013, with three districts improving. East Jasper Consolidated, Lumberton and Richton school districts each jumped from a "D" ranking to a "C."
Lamar County and Petal schools maintained an "A," joining only 17 other districts- or 13 percent- across the state with the top ranking.
"You can't sit back and be content with what you have, you always need to continue to push," said Smith of her students' test results.
On the other hand, some Pine Belt schools remained at the bottom.
Hattiesburg's Lillie Burney Elementary School scored an "F", while both Rowan Elementary and Hattiesburg High remained a "D". These recurring scores have caused some changes to be made within the district, according to superintendent James Bacchus.
"We have made some adjustments in school staff, added additional staff, some people we've opted out of the school to help and improve, so we feel that in another year, we will be in good space with Lillie Burney," explained Bacchus.
Although Lillie Burney scored an F again this year, they did show growth in some areas. Students in the bottom 25 percent achieved 80 percent growth in reading. Overall, the school met growth in that area by 49.5 percent.
Math, however, saw a much smaller growth for the bottom 25 percent at the school. Only 38.3 percent of those students met growth, whereas 50.7 percent overall met growth in math.
Other schools that maintained low scores are:
• Laurel School District
• Laurel High School- D
• Oak Park Elementary- D
• Lumberton Public School District
• Lumberton Elementary- D
• Perry County School District
• Runnelstown Elementary- D
• Wayne County School District
• Wayne County High School- D
• Waynesboro Middle- D
Pine Belt schools that improved ratings by one level are:
• Columbia School District
• Columbia High- B
• Covington County School District
• Carver Middle- D
• East Jasper Consolidated School District
• Heidelberg Junior High- A (jumped three levels from an "F" in 2013)
• Greene County School District
• Leakesville Junior High- C
• Hattiesburg Public School District
• Woodley Elementary- B
• Jefferson Davis County School District
• Bassfield High- C
• Prentiss Senior High- C
• Jones County School District
• Moselle Elementary- B
• Laurel School District
• Nora Davis Magnet- B
• Pearl River County School District
• Pearl River Central High- B
• Richton School District
• Richton High- D
• West Jasper School District
• Bay Springs Middle School- C
Overall, the state of Mississippi improved its ratings, particularly in the low-ranking categories.
The number of "F" districts decreased from 15 (10 percent) to one (one percent) between 2013 and 2014.
That drop was also reflected in individual schools. 92 schools received an "F" rating in 2013 (10 percent), compared to 24 this year (three percent).
For a full list of 2014 accountability results in Mississippi, click here.