State test scores remain flat

djournal-education-newsBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

Mississippi’s educational performance remained relatively flat on the latest Nation’s Report Card released Thursday.

The results are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test given to random students throughout the country. It is regarded as the most reliable measure for comparing educational progress among the states. The latest scores were for reading and math tests taken by a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students last spring.

Mississippi did not show significant gains or declines on any of the four tests compared to the last time they were given in 2011. The state also scored at or near the bottom of the country on all four tests.

The state has, however, made significant gains on both math tests and in fourth-grade reading since 1992, the first year it received data on either of those tests. It improved by at least 25 points on each math exam, which ranks third best among states.

Mississippi’s eighth-grade reading scores have remained stagnant since 1998, the first year of data on that test.

“When you look at scores and achievement levels since NAEP began collecting data, Mississippi has shown some improvement in math and reading,” new state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said in a news release. “However, when comparing Mississippi to other states, recent data from this report show our students are not where they need to be academically.

“That is why it is so critical that Mississippi continues its commitment to Common Core State Standards that better prepare students for college and career, expand our pre-kindergarten programs and place a laser-like focus on literacy instruction. Our students deserve nothing less than the best opportunities we can provide for their future success.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted gains made during the past four years by the first eight states to implement the Common Core State Standards, including Mississippi. The list also includes Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina.

The Common Core is a new set of standards for math and language arts that 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted. Kentucky first began using them in 2011-12 and the other seven states mentioned by Duncan did so during the 2012-13 school year, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers’ website. Other states begin using them this year or next year.

Mississippi improved on both math tests, compared to 2009, although its reading scores have remained flat.

“All eight states that implemented the state-designed higher standards of the Common Core Standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessments showed improvement in at least one of the reading or math assessments from 2009 to 2013,” Duncan said Wednesday.

“Given the rapid changes American educators are now implementing in response to the highest state-adopted standards, the fact that we are seeing the strongest performance in the history of the NAEP is a tremendous testament to the courage and leadership of our teachers and school leaders and the tremendous hard work of our students as well.”

Nationally, the report showed improvements among fourth- and eighth-grade students in math and among eighth-grade students in reading, compared to 2011.

“We are not seeing yet the transformational change nationwide, but we are seeing meaningful but generally modest progress,” Duncan said.

The largest gains came in Tennessee, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Defense schools, which each improved on all four tests.

The report shows improvement since 2011 in average scores for students of different racial/ethnic groups, but achievement gaps in reading didn’t change significantly.

Florida is the only state to have narrowed its achievement gap between black and white students for both subjects and grade levels since the 1990s.

More than 376,000 fourth-graders and 341,000 eighth-grades nationwide were in the random sample of students who took the test in 2013.

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  • charlie

    I personally heard Halley Barbour tell the Cheering crowd at the Neshoba County fair a few years ago, “We can’t fix education by throwing money at it.” I don’t know how he knew that as he had never tried that approach. In any case, we spend the least amount per pupil of most all states, I suppose we should be near the bottom. Food for thought. We pay our state politicians somewhere about the middle of the country and we have the worst in the country. Haley may have been right after all.

  • barney fife

    Maybe it’s the water …?