Mississippi high schools will see a tweak in the way they are graded this year.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to change the baseline score used to calculate annual accountability ratings for high schools, something education officials said will benefit everyone.

Each year public school districts and their individual schools receive A through F ratings based on a complex model that measures growth, state testing performance, and other factors.

Statewide test results released last week show more students are meeting grade-level expectations, but those results did not translate into accountability scores for schools with a 12th grade. To remedy this, the state board had the Commission on School Accreditation revisit the idea of changing cut scores Wednesday. They approved the change and the state board did the same Thursday.

Director of district and school performance Alan Burrow told the commission Wednesday “There would not be any negative impact to resetting the cuts this year. Everyone would benefit compared to leaving it where it is.”

If the score was not reset, preliminary accountability data suggested the number of A schools would drop from 50 in the 2016-17 school year to 7 in the 2017-18 school year, and the number of F schools would climb from 4 to 60.

With the new baseline, the preliminary accountability data shows 24 schools will be A’s and 33 schools will be F’s, compared to 50 A’s and 4 F’s in the previous school year. Part of the reason the number of A schools decreases despite the reset is because the state board also changed baseline scores last August, but included a “hold harmless” provision that allowed districts to keep whichever score was higher.

Chief of Accountability Paula Vanderford explained this was an “unintended consequence” of having three different state tests in a three-year period.

Students took the Mississippi Curriculum test in 2013-14, but the state switched to the PARCC test in 2014-15 and since the 2015-16 school year the state has used the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP).

High schools are graded on a 1000 point scale, and a large portion of those points come from growth. The 2016-17 results calculated growth with a PARCC to MAAP comparison, but 2017-18 data used a MAAP to MAAP comparison.

“We don’t want to have to continue to reset the baseline over and over and over again, but there are unintended consequences of having three assessments over three years and trying to measure growth across multiple assessments,” Vanderford told the commission Wednesday.

The state department of education is expected to release final accountability scores next month — although the board’s decision changed high school cut scores, the district-wide model will remain unchanged.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.