Are Your Schools Comparable?

Many of us are now in the process of determining if our schools are comparable.  In Mississippi, we use a comparability workbook provided by MDE to complete the process.  Even though MDE hosted a helpful technical assistance, questions often arise once one starts on the project.  Due to Covid, this is another year for which we are using data that doesn’t quite align.  The comparabilty report requires poverty numbers by school.  The LEAs were told to use the poverty data (free and reduced lunch counts) reflected in the FY22 Comprehensive Federal Progams Application (CFPA) found in MCAPS.   It is important to remember the poverty numbers and demographic numbers used in both the FY21 and the FY22 CFPAs are the same as the numbers in the FY20 CFPA.  Remember, the FY20 poverty data is collected in March of 2019.  Due to Covid related issues such as all students eating for free and  fluctuating enrollment numbers for both the FY21 and the FY22 school years, MDE advised LEAs to use the FY20 data for the CFPAs.    However, even though LEAs are to use the poverty student numbers in the FY22 MCAPS, the districts are to use the October 2021 month one MSIS data for enrollment.    This process can cause a skewed poverty rate for schools.   Some schools may be over 100% poverty while others may reflect a much reduced actual poverty rating.  The school poverty ranking on the FY22 CFPA may differ from the school poverty ranking on the comparability report.  If all schools being compared are Title I schools, this may lead to one having to determine which poverty ranking to use in determining the comparison school.  For my district, the different data points did cause schools to have a slightly different rank order than found in the FY22 MCAPS application.  For this reason, I chose to use MCAPS as my guide for determining comparability.  I may be wrong on this decision, but it seemed the logical choice for me as that is how we are funding the schools this year.  My lowest poverty school from the eligility page in MCAPS was my Title I comparison school.

Another required addition to this year’s comparability report was providing teacher names, positions, and federal and district FTEs.  Last year, it was suggested.  This year it is mandatory.  For those LEAs with many schools and/or large schools, this can be a time consuming task.  I suggest you check with someone knowledgeable about your financial package, such as Marathon, to see if they can provide an spreadsheet which you can sort so you can copy and paste into the workbook.  This can save a lot of time and effort.

If for some reason, you find your schools are not comparable, I have been told that some districts with all Title I schools use two or three of the lowest poverty schools as the comparison schools.  This changes the average and could make your schools comparable.  Also don’t forget to include vacant positions for which you are actively looking for personnel.  This, too, can impact your averages.

Good luck in completing this process.  May all your schools be found comparable.

Leave a Comment