Continued improvement in Mississippi test scores

Continued improvement in Mississippi test scores

(Miss.) For a third straight year, the performance of Mississippi K-12 students on statewide assessments improved even after moving to more rigorous content standards.

The percentage of students that either met or exceeded grade-level expectations in English language art increased from 36.7 percent in 2016-17 to 39.8 percent in 2017-18.

In math, the growth in performance was even better, going from 38.6 percent in 2016-17 to 43.9 percent in testing administered last spring.

“The continued improvement that we're seeing is due to teachers now developing a much better comfort level with teaching the standards,” said state superintendent Carey Wight at a news conference last month.

He noted that, overall, the number of students scoring in the two lowest levels has decreased, while those scoring near the top has grown.

Mississippi adopted new curriculum standards in 2014, which officials said were much more in-depth and required more critical thinking of students.

In addition, Mississippi schools have also improved on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is also known as the Nation's Report Card, and is the test used to compare performance between states.

NAEP scores, released in April, put Mississippi second in the nation for gains in fourth-grade reading and fourth best for gains in fourth-grade math.

Three of the highest scoring districts are all located in the northeast part of the state: Booneville, Oxford and Union County.

Booneville superintendent Todd English said teachers in his district have had to change their approach because of the new standards.

“Straight teaching the test is impossible because the test is dynamic,” he told the Sun Herald. “We teach the problem solving concepts that we need for the test.”

Ronnie Boyd, testing coordinator at Union County, said her district has put an emphasis on teacher collaborations.

“If we have one teacher who is doing one thing well, we're going to meet with them and find what's working,” she told the Sun. “Nobody is trying to say, 'I'm the best.' We're going to be the best as a team. The most important thing is using last year's data to find how to improve. We find the areas we need to work on and make those adjustments.”

The tests were first administered in 2015-16 and evaluate student knowledge in English Language Arts and math in third- through eighth-grade, as well as English II and Algebra I.

Students score in five categories from a low of Level 1 up to a high of Level 5.

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