Transition Year for State Test Scores

Posted 8/26/14

The Mississippi Department of Education has released the scores from the state assessments that Mississippi students took last spring.

Raw scores for districts and schools, as well as for the state as a whole, can be found at: http://reports.mde.k12.ms.us/report1/r2013-14.aspx

The majority of Mississippi students scored proficient or advanced at every grade level on the 2014 MCT2 and on the SATP2. Although most students scored proficient or higher on the MCT2, the overall percentage of these students dropped.

“The performance levels on state tests were lower this year as expected because the 2014 tests were not aligned to Mississippi’s higher academic standards,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “We are looking forward to implementing the state’s new assessments in 2015, which will provide a more meaningful measure of what students are currently learning in class.”

The test scores from one district to the next do not represent an apples-to-apples comparison. Some districts have moved fully to the new standards, meaning that the course of study taught in their schools was not aligned at all to the state tests. Other districts are transitioning more slowly, using a blended model of the old and new standards. Most districts saw a slight drop in test scores, as was expected.

For those reasons, schools and districts will not be penalized in their accountability ratings for lower test scores. Schools and districts will maintain their ratings from last year unless their scores improved, in which case the district may elect to go with the higher rating. Those ratings will be released next month.

Students Are Learning More, Earlier

As Mississippi students and teachers move to a much more rigorous set of college- and career-ready standards, we are in the midst of an important time of transition. The material being taught in our schools today is significantly more difficult than what was being taught before, and it is being taught at a faster pace.

For example, about 80 percent of the material that in prior years was taught in Algebra I is now being taught in eighth grade math. And about 80 percent of what is being taught now in Algebra I was being taught in Algebra II. This accelerated pace will put Mississippi students on par with their peers in the top performing countries and states, and that is good news for our children and for our state. Our kids and their teachers have a big hill to climb to meet the new standards, but they are up to the challenge!

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From the DeSoto Times Tribune, 8/26/14:

DCS (DeSoto County Schools) Assistant Superintendent for Academic Education Jennifer Weeks says the test scores are lower for the school district compared to past years, as expected. However, Weeks quickly pointed out that because the district last year moved to begin teaching under the new Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, the MCT2 results are not a fair measurement of student assessment and will not be used this year to compare student achievement and teacher proficiency.

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“Teaching the CCSS while assessing using a test aligned to the old standards is like building a home using one set of building codes, but assessing the value and structural soundness of the home using a different set of building codes,” Mississippi Department of Education Director of English/Language Arts Vincent Segalini explained. “While neither set of standards is wrong, we can’t expect the new building to meet the older codes. Once we see how the new building aligns to the new codes, we will see the soundness and value of the new building.”

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The freeze on accountability was done by the state education department because it also realized the inequities of testing under one curriculum, while teaching under another.

“The state gave us a freeze and you would wonder why even assess the students if the state is freezing accountability?” Weeks said. “But, federal law, which the state has no control over, requires that we test all students in grades 3-8. We chose the route of instructing the students in the way that we felt was going to make them more successful and putting the published test scores aside.”

Teachers in the district trying to move away from MCT2 to Common Core have welcomed the “breathing space” allowed by the freeze on accountability.

“This ‘freeze’ was invaluable to me as a classroom teacher while implementing standards that are much more rigorous than our previous state objectives,” said DeSoto Central Middle School sixth-grade language arts teacher Sondra Hinton. “I am encouraged that the new standards involve rigorous reading and writing which better prepares my students for the challenges they will face in college and career.”