Results from the 2015-2016 MAP English assessments Credit: Mississippi Department of Education

An early look at Mississippi students’ scores on the new state assessment shows they performed similarly to last year’s scores on a different test.

The State Board of Education approved the cut scores for the new test on Monday. The cut scores are the minimum score a student must achieve to be placed in one of five performance levels — minimal, basic, pass, proficient and advanced.

The 2015-2016 school year marked the first for the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) after the state broke from the Common Core testing consortium PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers).

The MAP test measures student progress in grades 3 through 8 with annual tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics, along with high school Algebra I and English II.

A team of teachers and content area experts met in July to determine the raw cut scores for each test in each grade. For example, an 8th grader must make a raw score of 55 out of 71 to 73 points on the English Language Arts test to be considered “advanced.” A “proficient” cut score falls at 43, a “pass” at 29, and a “basic” at 22. Any score under 22 would qualify as a “minimal” score.

J.P. Beaudoin, chief of research and development at the state education department, said the MAP results “correlate very closely” to the state’s results from PARCC last year.

“I was pleasantly surprised at the 4 and 5 (proficient and advanced) scores,” state education superintendent Carey Wright said.

Wright noted that schools must use the data to focus on those students who scored at the lowest level. For example, on 6th grade English Language Arts, more than 16 percent scored at the lowest level on the test, while around 24 percent scored basic, or level 2.

“Who are these children?” Wright asked.

The MAP test will eventually be used as the test 3rd graders must pass to continue to the 4th grade. If MAP had been used to determine promotion to 4th grade this year, some 35 percent of 3rd graders would be at risk for repeating a year.

2015-2016 was the second year students have been tested on the Common Core-linked College and Career Ready Standards, which the state adopted in 2010.

School districts will receive the preliminary data on Tuesday for review. The state-level results will then be presented to the state board of education on Aug. 18.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.