Stop tweaking school ratings

Not again! That’s the only possible response to news last week that the Mississippi Department of Education will have to make some changes to the system it uses to grade school districts and individual schools.

The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Department of Education rejected parts of Mississippi’s current grading system last month. Mississippi is among several states that have been asked to make changes to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It sounds like the state will have no alternative but to make the changes. The most relevant one for this area involves the measurement of progress among a school’s lowest-performing students.

State officials set that up to make sure schools didn’t ignore achievement gaps between low-scoring and high-scoring students. But federal education officials want it applied to all students.

There are a couple of other changes. One involves students who are learning English as a second language, and the other involves the timing of when students will take an algebra exam.

The larger point is — enough changing already. Until federal officials intervened, this school year would have been the first one since 2010-11 that Mississippi schools taught the same curriculum, gave the same standardized tests and used the same rating system as they did the year before.

Schools in the state have enough of a challenge reaching students as it is, and coaxing better grades out of them. But the task becomes impossible if the method of assessing academic improvement keeps changing.

It’s past time for Mississippi schools to ride on the same horse for a while. Only then will the public know whether things are improving.