Change in Assessment Yields Inflated Growth

Posted 8/17/2017

Calculating achievement growth of Mississippi students has been complicated in recent years by changes in assessments from year to year.  In 2015, Mississippi discontinued its use of PARCC assessments and developed the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP), which is aligned to the state’s college- and career-ready standards.

The PARCC tests were widely criticized in Mississippi and in other participating states for their above-grade-level questions and lack of alignment with grade-level standards. Because of the extreme rigor of the PARCC tests, Mississippi students generally scored lower on PARCC than they did the following year on MAAP. Consequently, school and district scores showed higher than normal growth from PARCC in 2015 to MAAP in 2016, therefore, the points they were awarded for academic growth in 2016 on the state accountability model were higher than normal. This yielded unusually high, or “artificially inflated,” total scores for schools and districts across the board in 2016.

It was on these abnormally high scores that baseline cut scores were set last year. Baseline scores, or cut scores, are the point totals that schools and districts need to accumulate in order to earn a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F.

Because the accountability system (which governs the grades schools and districts are assigned) awards significant points for academic growth, schools and districts saw a bump when 2016 A-F grades were assigned. At the time, many districts raised concerns about the future implications of the higher baseline. They knew that the inflated academic growth that was seen in the move from PARCC to assessments better aligned with our standards would not be achieved in future years of consecutive MAAP assessments.

The 2016-2017 school year was the second year of testing using the MAAP assessments. The preliminary data from those assessments revealed recently that the concerns expressed last year were valid: even though proficiency rates increased across the state in 2016-2017, schools and districts may not get the credit for that growth because of the inflated baseline that was set last year.

The State Board of Education voted on August 17, 2017, to address this situation as follows:

  • adjust the scoring baseline to align with the MAAP assessments and use that baseline moving foward
  • assign school and district grades per 2016 baseline scores and 2017 baseline scores and allow schools/districts to claim the higher of those grades as the official grade for 2017
  • set the numerical values for future years according to the 2017 baseline scores

The board did not discuss the possibility of setting new cut scores without using the percentile ranking system that ensures a predetermined number of schools and districts in each of the letter grade categories. If the board moves forward with setting scores using percentile rankings, the 2017 baseline used in the future will have a higher mark for districts to rise above an F (making it harder to move from an F to a D) and a lower mark for districts to achieve an A (making it easier to move from a B to an A).

Letter grades will be announced in October.