Education ratings plans confuse many

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mississippi Board of Education members illustrated in crystal clear detail last week just how complicated the nuances of state and federal school ratings have become.

Quite frankly, the details have become so complicated that few people who don’t work in the field seem to have a grasp on it. In some cases, as last week’s example shows us, even the insiders seem lost sometimes.

After months of developing a new ratings system, Mississippi officials learned the U.S. Department of Education likely would reject the new rating system because it didn’t place enough emphasis on high school graduation.

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Mississippi’s new plan called for graduation to count for 100 points on a 1,100-point scale — or approximately 9 percent of the total rating.

Federal educators believe graduation levels should account for at least 20 percent of the total points allowed in the rating.

The issue for Mississippi is the vast amount of federal dollars that flow back into the state’s education coffers. That funding could have been withheld as a result.

In the end, all of the shuffling around may not really matter much to anyone beyond a few educators and some politicians.

Using the newest proposal featuring a heavier focus on graduation rates and applying it to last year’s test data, the number of schools rated with a D would increase while the number with an F would decrease slightly.

Realize, however, the ratings are simply letters; the actual education being taught and absorbed wouldn’t change.

How could our country focus all of these efforts on actually educating children rather than creating, scrapping and recreating ratings plans?

Perhaps the best option might be to consider backing up and starting over. If we created a new education system today from scratch — rather than building on what already exists — how would that system look?