For the first time since the A-F school report cards released by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) were rolled out three years ago, none of the Mobile County Public School System’s (MCPSS) 89 schools received an F, and the system as a whole received an overall B.
The ALSDE released the annual report cards and their underlying data last week — giving school officials, teachers and parents a better idea of how schools across the state are performing. Scores were good on both sides of Mobile Bay, with MCPSS and Baldwin County Schools both earning overall Bs.
Grades on the ALSDE report cards are assigned based on a combination of factors like standardized test scores, student academic growth, English language proficiency and absenteeism rates in all schools. They also consider the graduation rates and college and career readiness indicators for high schools.
For the second year in a row, MCPSS showed improvements across the board and in individual schools.
The system increased its overall score to an 83 (B), which is up from last year’s 77 (C). The district also saw an increase in the number of schools earning As and Bs, which jumped up from 31 to 36. In addition to that, no MCPSS schools received an F this year and only eight scored anything lower than a C.
Earlier this week, MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill said administrators and teachers alike were “extremely proud” of the results reported this year, but he also said there’s still work to be done.
“We will celebrate the success of having a B; however, we are not done yet. We will not be satisfied until MCPSS is an A district,” Threadgill said. “We will not become complacent, and since we have shown that we can rise six points this year, we will set the bar even higher.”
Statewide, only 12 schools scored a 100, and MCPSS was one of only two systems (Mountain Brook Schools being the other) that had three schools earn that designation. Eichold-Mertz Magnet School of Math, Science and Technology and Council Traditional School, which had perfect scores last year, were joined by Old Shell Road School.
According to Threadgill, MCPSS also had the second-highest rating among the state’s six largest school systems, falling second to Baldwin County by just three points. Overall, the Baldwin County Public School System (BCPSS) scored an 86 — an improvement from the 85 it earned on its state report cards in 2018.
In all, the growing school district had 18 schools receive an A, 16 earn a B and eight graded with at least a C. No schools in Baldwin County earned anything lower than that. In an email sent last week, BCPSS Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the scores were “excellent news” for the district, though he did say BCPSS would be working to reduce student absences, which he said impacted scores this year.
“As we continue to grow, we are amazed that our teachers and staff continue to maintain their focus on academics and growing our report card scores and academic success,” Tyler wrote. “Of course, we have room for improvement. In too many cases, excessive student absences have had a negative impact on academic achievement. This year, we have implemented significant procedural changes to address these absences in hopes of raising grades at schools where absences altered otherwise good results.”
Back in Mobile County, the ACCEL Day and Evening Academy — Alabama’s first public charter school — received the only F in the region, but officials there claim that’s because of its unique student population and some of the factors the state considers when calculating scores for the report cards.
In a statement addressing the release of the scores, ACCEL officials noted that 80 percent of its students live below the poverty line, 70 percent were at least a grade behind when they enrolled and 80 percent were testing below average in reading and math. The school also emphasized that it isn’t approved or funded to offer career and technical education, which likely impacted scores for “career readiness indicators.”
Deputy State Superintendent of Education Dr. Daniel Boyd made similar observations after the report card scores were released last Friday, which marked the first time there’s been enough data available on ACCEL to calculate a report card grade since it opened in 2017. Boyd said the report card system is an effective measure for traditional schools but doesn’t “completely capture the story of ACCEL.”
“ACCEL provides a creative and innovative learning environment for students who may experience difficulty in a traditional setting,” Boyd said in a statement provided to Lagniappe. “This school is achieving success in a multitude of ways, and the best is yet to come.”
While A-F school report cards were first introduced in Alabama to create a system that was simple for parents to understand, the ALSDE also compiles and releases a ton of detailed data on academic performance as part of the process, which is then broken down by system, school and student subgroups.
All of that information is available on the state department’s website, alsde.edu. State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey said ALSDE also put special emphasis on creating an interface that displays the data in a way that’s user-friendly and makes it easier to review and compare schools.
It also includes data on student proficiency in core subject areas like reading, math and science, disaggregated by school year, as well as information on the teachers who are employed by every school across the state — including educator credentials, demographics, years of experience and the percentage of teachers working in the field they obtained their degree in.
Mackey said he hopes parents, educators and the public alike will use this technology to learn more about what is happening inside schools in their area and across the entire state of Alabama.
“We hope this can be used as a catapult to jumpstart conversations about what is working in public schools as well as identifying areas that may need support or additional resources,” he added.
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