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Corinth School District Takes MDE to Court

By Dillon Mullan

For Corinth Today

Corinth School District’s motto is “We do school differently,” and based off curriculum, that slogan holds true.

Childress

In February 2016, the Mississippi Department of Education approved Corinth’s application to become a District of Innovation that uses the Cambridge International Curriculum – an internationally recognized program with its own benchmark exams.

The vast majority of Mississippi’s public school districts use a curriculum based on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program, which is commonly referred to as state tests.

As part of its application to become a District of Innovation, Corinth schools and MDE agreed that an alternative accountability model would rate the school. But in June 2018, MDE informed Corinth that it would no longer work with the district to develop an alternative accountability model.

This week, MDE released unofficial school ratings that defined Corinth School District as a C and its high school as an F. In large part, those ratings are based off results from the MAAP exams, which Corinth’s Cambridge Curriculum does not aim to prepare students to take.

On Wednesday in the chancery court of Hinds County, Corinth School District filed a verified complaint for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Mississippi Department and State Board of Education. The lawsuit was based around MDE allegedly breaking its promise to provide the district with its own accountability model.

While the judge denied the Temporary Restraining Order due to jurisdictional issues, the school district is now seeking resolution through other avenues.

“Here in Corinth, we welcome accountability, but we want the accountability that was promised to us by the Mississippi State Board of Education,” Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress said. “We are exposing our children to an internationally benchmarked curriculum. We want an accountability model that is an accurate reflection of our students’ ability.”

While MAAP exams are mostly multiple-choice, Cambridge assessments are primarily short answers and essays. Last school year, Corinth High School administered 575 different Cambridge assessments to 211 students with a passing rate of 59 percent. However, unlike Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams taken at high schools around the state, the Cambridge assessments were not taken into account by MDE when they gave Corinth High School an unofficial F rating.

“We’re asking that MDE includes our Cambridge Data in the calculation of our rating,” Childress said.

Corinth High School’s average ACT scores are better than the rest of the state. The class of 2017 scored an average 20.2 compared to 18.6 across the state. Every year between 2013 and 2017, Corinth High School students had a higher average score in each of the test’s four subjects – English, Math, Reading and Science.

In the lawsuit, Corinth claimed that the current ratings “erroneously report the district as an underperforming district despite its history of successful performance… will be personally and professionally damaging to the reputations of the District…[and] will have a damaging effect on the community’s ability to recruit new economic development and maintain existing economic development due to the perception of the District as an under-performing district.”

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