Questions have arisen recently about how Mississippi Curriculum Test scores, and specifically Tupelo Public School District
test scores, compared with the test scores of students across the nation. Much of this interest and concern seems to have emerged from information published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This report was quoted as follows: “In 2005, even though 89 percent of all fourth-graders in Mississippi were rated proficient in reading, the highest percentage in the nation, only 18 percent of Mississippi fourth-graders made the grade in reading on the rigorous NAEP.” Further inferences have been made suggesting that this information must be true for fourth-graders in the Tupelo public schools as well. However, to draw this conclusion is an incorrect oversimplification, and there is much more to this story that should be considered.
First of all, the National Assessment of Educational Progress is a program that samples students from all across the nation and makes generalizations about the performance of each individual state based on this sampling of students. At best, information gained from NAEP is only valid on a statewide basis, and the results do not statistically represent, nor should they be understood, to reflect the results of any single school district within the state of Mississippi. In fact, most recently during the 2006-2007 school year, only 90 TPSD students were tested by NAEP. Therefore, to assume that just 18 percent of all TPSD fourth-graders “made the grade” in reading is simply not accurate.
Long before the present Mississippi Department of Education accreditation system was even put into place, the Tupelo Public School District was administering national exams to all, not just a sampling, of our students in grades one through eight. As a matter of fact, the TPSD may very well be the only school district in Mississippi to administer the nationally-normed Terra Nova exam to all students in grades one through eight.
Further, our school district has long placed great value on the results of the Terra Nova exam because it compares the performance of our students not just with the state of Mississippi, but also with the entire nation. Again, please note that the results of this exam are not based on a mere sampling of students, but are based on the performance of all our students, grades 1-8. Just as importantly, remember that the Terra Nova provides us with a national comparison of our students’ performance.
Above national norms
The Terra Nova exam measures student performance in reading, language and math. It is structured or designed in a manner that the 50th percentile represents the national norm in each area. For example, a student who scores in the 65th percentile in reading is scoring as well as 65 percenmt of students in the nation who took the exam on that particular day. On the 2007 Terra Nova exam, the average composite score of TPSD students at every grade level, 1-8, in all three areas-reading, language, and math was above the national norm (50th percentile). In fact, TPSD fourth-graders scored as well or better than 67 percent of the nation on the composite score of the nationally-normed Terra Nova exam.
Even though this information clearly indicates that TPSD students are reading above those levels reported by NAEP for the state of Mississippi as a whole, please know that the Tupelo Public School District is committed to and is working for continuous improvement in the academic performance of our students. We are not merely content to stay where we are today, and our teachers, administrators and staff strive to more effectively meet the needs of our students each and every day.
Randy McCoy is suuperintende tof the Tupelo Public Schools. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.