OUR OPINION: Improved scores reflect better grasp of subjects

Daily Journal Editorial

The Tupelo and Lee County school systems both reported substantial gains Wednesday in last school year’s test scores measuring student performance in the major subject areas, with especially notable gains into the proficient category, second only to advanced, the highest category.

The tests measure performance from lowest to highest: minimal, basic, proficient and advanced. The scores are factored into the rankings for each school and school district statewide, but that information won’t be released until Sept.13.

The Tupelo Public Schools again made strong gains on the state test, with improvement in the top two categories measured against all 17 tests from the year before, which had also shown improvement.

“We are seeing significant gains across all grades,” Superintendent Gearl Loden said.

The tests results released Wednesday showed results from third- to eighth-grade students taking the Mississippi Curriculum Test, second edition, in language arts and math last spring, and fifth- and eighth-graders also taking a science test.

High school students take a test after completing Algebra I, English II, U.S. history and biology.

Scores were particularly gratifying in the third through fifth grades.

Loden said those results reflect superior teaching and learning in the lower elementary grades.

The strength of improvements also notable at Tupelo High School, where more than 88 percent of students scored at least proficient on the algebra test, 80.4 percent on biology, both gains of at least 20 percentage points. Meanwhile, 71.2 percent of students were proficient on U.S. history and 69.6 percent on English II, both about 10 percentage points above the statewide average.

Milam Elementary School and Tupelo Middle School also made gains on their tests.

Tupelo’s fifth- and eighth-grade science scores also exceeded the state average.

Lee County Public Schools also showed mostly gains, improving on 14 of the 17 tests from last year. Verona Elementary set a firm course toward improvement and succeeded. Verona improved on all four of its tests, including gains of at least 20 percentage points on three of the four.

Most other middle and elementary schools had score improvements, with one school showing a large decline in math scores.

Testing is a means to an end, and the improved scores in most of the schools in the two systems reflect an improving grasp of teaching what’s necessary for current knowledge proficiency and mastery.