BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – "We feel like we've won the Super Bowl two years in a row and that's extremely difficult," said a beaming Dr. Sue Matheson, Superintendent of Pass Christian Schools.
A Super Bowl repeat. That was how Matheson described her district's latest achievement. Once again, Pass Christian is not only a "Star" district, it is also ranked the best in Mississippi.
"We certainly hoped and we've been working on it all year," said Matheson. "But I'll have to say, we were very surprised and very, very pleased."
"Star" is the highest. Besides Pass Christian, only two other schools districts in the state are "Stars": Enterprise and Petal.
"It is quite an achievement. We're extremely happy about it," said Petal Schools Superintendent Dr. John Buchanan. "You can say what you want to, but it's hard work in the classroom. It's dedication by our teachers and our staff."
The new Accountability Ratings are based on last year's state test scores, along with other factors like academic growth, graduation, and dropout rates.
After "Star," "High Performing" is the next best designation. Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson County, Long Beach, and Ocean Springs are all high performers.
Following "High Performing" is "Successful" school districts. They are Bay St. Louis, George, Greene, Hancock and Harrison Counties, Hattiesburg, Pascagoula, Pearl River County, Picayune, and Poplarville.
Forrest and Stone Counties fall in the "Academic Watch" category.
While no school districts along the coast are rated as "Failing", Moss Point and Laurel are "At-Risk of Failing."
Local superintendents say Mississippi's tests are much tougher now and are comparable to tests in other states, so they have to work hard on their weaknesses.
"The hard part is getting to the top. But even harder is staying there, because everybody wants to try to emulate and copy what you do," said Buchanan.
"We're looking at ways to improve, absolutely. We've got a long way to go. We will continue to work hard and hopefully improve next year," said Matheson.
The rating system also gave a grade to individual schools. Seventeen schools in South Mississippi are "Star" schools. The State Board of Education is expected to approve those latest results at its meeting Friday morning.