High-stakes time: State school tests start today

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Much of how Mississippi’s schools will be judged over the next year will be determined during the next three days.
That’s because third- to eighth-grade students throughout the state will be taking their state test, the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition. They’ll take the reading portion today, the writing tomorrow and the math on Thursday.
Their results will be entered into a formula that will be used to rate the schools – high schools and districts also will be judged on graduation rates and on high school state tests that have already been taken.
“This week is a very stressful week for everyone because testing is tiring for teachers and students,” said Leigh Mobley, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Tupelo Public School District. “Adding to that stress is that this does measure what we have put in place all year. We want the efforts students put out on the test to truly indicate how hard we’ve worked. That is hard to do on one test.”
Both Mobley and Lee County School District Testing Coordinator Debbie Jones said the two most important things parents can do this week to help students do their best is to ensure their children get a lot of sleep and eat a healthy breakfast.
“We want everything to focus around being positive and relaxed,” Jones said. “That is one of the key things.”
State tests are often maligned for having altered the education process and stymied creativity. Some educators argue, however, they merely measure how well students learned the curriculum they were expected to cover. Jones said these tests also can provide important data to a school district.
“This is a yard stick or a measurement to see if our children are learning and can accurately process and apply the material,” she said. “We use it for the purpose of improving instruction in the classroom. We also are looking at it to see if students are progressing like they should and to accelerate student achievement.”
Both Jones and Mobley noted that attendance is important. However, Mobley said, if students are sick, they should know there are makeup test days on Friday and Monday.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com