MDE News

Letter to the Editor: Interim State Superintendent of Education Dr. Lynn House

by Mar 11, 2013

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: March 11, 2013

Patrice Guilfoyle, Director of Communications, 601-359-3706

JACKSON, Miss. – It has come to my attention that some misinformation has been circulating among school districts and the general public around the U.S. History exam required for graduation and the use of those scores in our accountability model.

Let me be clear: the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has not retreated from its educational standards nor has it taken any steps to de-emphasize the importance of U.S. History in our schools. On the contrary, we have increased the rigor in all four subject area tests for a student to graduate, including U.S. History, which was updated during the 2011-2012 school year.  The U.S. History exam remains a part of the accountability model by which we measure both school and district success.

While the new U.S. History exam is arguably our most challenging graduation exam, I firmly believe it measures the exact type of information that students, families, communities and schools need to know about student preparation.  Specifically, it provides important insights into how well students are mastering critical knowledge, skills and abilities essential to thrive in college and careers.

It is vitally important that as our state continues its transition to Common Core State Standards and the accompanying assessments from PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) that we update our accountability model. The Mississippi State Board of Education charged an Accountability Task Force comprised of local school district teachers and administrators from around the state with evaluating ways to improve how we measure the effectiveness of schools and school districts.

To understand how this misinformation may have started, it may help to know what has been taking place recently with the Accountability Task Force. The task force has been meeting over the last several months to discuss various factors that should be a part of the new accountability model for school districts.

At a recent meeting, task force members discussed whether to remove the U.S. History exam from the new accountability model under development because of the rigor of the test, the limited remediation opportunities for seniors because most students take this exam during the 11th grade and its impact on districts’ accountability ratings. However, no formal recommendations have been made to the Board from the task force at this time, including the fate of the U.S. History exam.

Additionally, once the task force submits its recommendations to the Board, the Board will follow its normal process of public comment and careful review by the U.S. Department of Education and our Technical Advisory Committee before accepting or rejecting any of the recommendations. Every decision will be vetted to determine what’s in the best interest of students, schools, communities and our state.

I can assure you the MDE is diligently working to implement Board standards and policies that will improve the state’s public education system to the benefit of all. We remain committed to providing every child with the quality education he or she needs and deserves in order to prepare them for college and the workforce.

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