School test scores released this week

news_education_greenBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Mississippi Department of Education will release this week the results from last school year’s state tests.

Those scores currently are scheduled to be published on Tuesday. They will show what percentage of students scored in each of the four categories – minimal, basic, proficient and advanced, from lowest to highest – for schools and districts across the state.

Third- to eighth-graders took tests in math and language arts during the spring, while fifth- and eighth-graders also took science tests. High school students take state tests upon completing algebra, English-2, U.S. history and biology. They must pass those tests in order to graduate.

Last spring’s tests were the last time elementary students will take the Mississippi Curriculum Test-2, which measured how well they were performing on the old Mississippi State Frameworks. This year, schools are instead using the Common Core State Standards, new guidelines for teaching math and language arts. They will take a new test on those standards in the spring.

Preparing for that switch, many schools focused more on the Common Core last year than they did on the state frameworks, meaning the skills measured by the tests were not necessarily the same as the ones schools were teaching.

As a result, this year’s test data will not mean as much to Mississippi schools as it has in the past.

The test data will be used to determine schools’ letter-grade rankings under a new state accountability model that was approved during the spring. Those labels will be released in mid-September.

Many schools will keep the same letter-grade they had last year, however. That is because the Mississippi Department of Education allowed them to freeze their ranking in order to be able to focus more on the Common Core. Districts and schools will be able to keep their 2012-13 ranking or take the one from this year, depending on which is higher.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com