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MDE Responds to PEER Report on Early Learning Collaboratives

December 9, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. – For the second time in 2015, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has received a PEER Committee report that neglected to adhere to national standards for evaluating educational programs and criticized the MDE for its implementation of a program that fully adhered to the law.

The most recent report, “The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013: Evaluation of the Operations and Effectiveness of the Program,” reviewed the first year of the implementation of the state’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELCs).

The MDE disputes the overall findings of the report, and is particularly concerned about the following three methods PEER used to evaluate the ELCs:

  • PEER used one year of data to draw its conclusions that students were underperforming. The national standard for evaluating educational programs is to use trend data over 3 to 5 years. As part of the ELC implementation, the MDE conducts ongoing research and analysis to identify the factors that lead to positive student outcomes and to ensure that all students receive the quality programming necessary for school readiness.
  • PEER compared the end-of-year scores of students in the new ELCs to the scores of students in well-established, public pre-Kindergarten programs that have been in the practice of implementing curricula and instruction for many years. The ELCs spent the first portion of the 2014-2015 school year blending curricula, formative assessments and instruction. ELC partners administered assessments for the first time during the program’s first full school year.
  • PEER criticized the curriculum that the ELCs selected. Each collaborative selected a research-based curriculum and assessment based on the children’s needs in the community, that had a literacy focus, and was aligned to all areas of the Early Learning Standards.

Since the passage of the law, the MDE has established an office charged with continuous monitoring, technical assistance, and professional development to support early childhood efforts across the state.

The spring 2015 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment results show gains in student outcomes for state-funded collaboratives. From the fall 2014 to the spring 2015 administration of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, student growth was achieved, as evidenced by the number of collaboratives (8 of 11) exceeding the target score for the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.

Two collaboratives showing the greatest gains in student performance actually used a curriculum that met the requirements of the law, but was not included in the research cited by PEER.

The collaborative model takes a unique approach to structuring public education, as it has required the development of a cohesive system through local partnerships with organizations that have previously worked independently under different guidelines or requirements. Changes in teacher credential requirements and educational standards are among the higher expectations of collaborative partners.

“PEER’s conclusions clearly violate the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, which are the national standards for evaluating educational programs. Therefore, any inferences about the Early Learning Collaborative effectiveness articulated in this report should be disregarded,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.  “The MDE is fully committed to implementing the Early Learning Collaborative Act to ensure that every student in the state’s ELCs receives a high-quality education that equips them for success in school.”

PEER’s earlier 2015 report criticized the Mississippi Accountability System that was prescribed by law.

To view the MDE’s full response to the PEER report on the Early Learning Collaborative program, click here.

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist