Mississippi middle- and high-school students are slowly adapting to more rigorous College and Career Ready standards, state test results released on Thursday show.
More than 40,000 students around the state participated in the assessments, and almost half of them exceeded expectations on the English assessment; 27 percent of students met those same standards on the algebra assessment.
The test evaluates students’ scores by levels: 1-5. Students who scored at levels 4 or 5 are considered at or above the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) standards.
Students who reach level 3 are still considered passing, but with some qualifications. Level 3 students know some of the content but need some assistance in meeting gaps in their understanding, said J.P. Beaudoin, chief of research and development at the Mississippi Department of Education.
PARCC defines a “Level 3” student as “someone who meets some standards and is not college-ready,” Beaudoin said. The department equates that to being a “C” student, and made level 3 the baseline for counting a student as “college and career ready.”
When level 3 scores are included, 57.9 percent of students passed the algebra exam; 72.7 percent of students passed the English exam.
State Superintendent Carey Wright said the test results were encouraging, especially because PARCC assessments are more challenging than SATP2 tests (which students took in prior years, before PARCC tests replaced them in 2014).
“This is the baseline, and we’re only going to go up from here,” Wright said on a conference call Wednesday. “I am very proud of the teachers in this state.”
Wright plans to keep the more challenging standards as a baseline for testing going forward and says she will not lower testing standards. Mississippi is no longer part of the PARCC consortia and is adopting its own testing program called the Mississippi Assessment Program.
Wright said the new tests for middle- and high-school students will focus on meeting standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Performance, which produces its own national assessment and results every two years. This year, Mississippi was the only state whose fourth-grade scores on NAEP tests increased in math and reading.
Mississippi’s PARCC test scores varied drastically by county. The Amory School District had 91.8 percent of students at or above the baseline on the English assessment, while Jackson Public Schools had 59.4 percent of students at or above the baseline.
JPS students fared much better on English testing than algebra: 64 percent of students who took the algebra test did not reach the minimum standard.
Wright said that schools and teachers should use the test results to see gaps in content and focus on professional development in the weak areas.
“I will be encouraging all administrators and educators to use these results,” Wright said.
The department will look to expand training and guidance for teachers so that they can improve students’ performance in the future.