GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "It's a mistake and the district is going to move on." That's the response from Gulfport's school superintendent after learning that his district's status could be downgraded from "accredited" to "probation" this year.
The Commission on School Accreditation recommended that the Gulfport District be put on probation for not giving two state-mandated tests last spring. The superintendent called this issue a misunderstanding.
Gulfport school leaders received a letter over the summer from the state Department of Education asking why Gulfport students didn't take the MCT2 and the MST2 Science Test last year.
"I think when the sun sets, it's a misunderstanding between the Gulfport School District and the state Department of Education," said Gulfport Schools Superintendent Glen East.
East said that misunderstanding stems from all the academic changes the district has been making to help redesign education in Mississippi.
Three years ago, the Gulfport School District was chosen to pilot Excellence for All, a program based on Common Core State Standards. In the first and second year, all Gulfport third through eighth graders took the MCT2. But last year, the district decided to give its students the ACT Aspire test instead.
"We believe that ACT Aspire, which was the new test that we gave back in the spring, could be substituted for MCT2. And quite frankly, we learned through that process that was not the case," said East. "We chose to give the ACT Aspire, because it's a nationally norm test. And we thought we had the understanding with the state department that's what we were going to do."
After looking into the matter, the Commission on School Accreditation made the recommendation to place the Gulfport School District on probation this academic year.
"I think that's a pretty tough word for stubbing our toe, of all the stuff that we've done for this whole pilot program over the years," said East. "The bottom line is we've done so many good things and we're making change, we're going to make a mistake. We made one. It happened. We're going to fix it. We're going to move on."
Fixing it may mean giving Gulfport students all three tests next May.
"That's going to stress some kids out, we understand that. We're going to do what we need to do to meet the state guidelines," said East. "You can't make the changes that we've made in education over the last three years and not mess up at least once, and that's what we've done. We've stubbed our toe one time, so I don't consider it a black eye."
The State Department of Education issued a statement: "Gulfport believed that because they were giving the ACT Aspire as well as their district aligned Common Core assessment, they did not have to give the MCT2. The district is doing great things with their innovative program of study, and this seems to be a misunderstanding."
The state Board of Education will vote on the probation recommendation on Friday.