State test results: One-third now score proficient

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More students scored in the highest two levels on state tests this year than last year, according to results released Thursday from the 2016-2017 school year.

In English Language Arts, 34.9 percent of students scored level 4 and 5 — the top levels — on the 2017 Mississippi Academic Assessment Program compared to 32.6 percent on the 2016 test.

Math scores showed a similar trend, with 36.8 percent of students scoring levels 4 and 5 in 2017 compared to only 31.1 percent last year.

Students are placed in one of five performance levels – minimal, basic, pass, proficient and advanced. Only proficient and advanced, or levels 4 and 5, are considered “proficient.”

Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

State Education Superintendent Carey Wright

“Student achievement in Mississippi is steadily improving thanks to the hard work and focused efforts of teachers, administrators, parents and students,” Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said. “We have raised expectations for what students can accomplish, and our students are meeting and exceeding these higher expectations.”

In another promising sign, the percentage of students scoring minimal, or Level 1, decreased this year. On the 2017 test, just 6.5 percent of students across the state scored at a Level 1 in math, while 9.4 percent of tested students scored a Level 1 in English Language Arts.

Thirty two districts had more than 45 percent of all tested students scoring at Level 4 or above in math this year compared to 15 districts in 2016. In English, 22 districts had more than 45 percent of all students score a Level 4 or above in English, compared to 14 districts last year.  

Mississippi students take annual English Language Arts and mathematics assessments in 3rd through 8th grade and Algebra I and English II assessments in high school. The tests measure students’ knowledge, skills and academic growth, and are a component of schools and districts’ state accountability ratings.

In the 2016-2017 school year, more than 263,000 students took the state tests.

The state’s two public charter schools in Jackson, along with the Jackson Public School District, will be looked at closely. This marks the first year one can compare test results from charter schools’ first and second years of operation, while Jackson Public School District faces a potential state takeover after its accreditation was downgraded to “probation” last year.

Midtown Public Charter School had a higher percentage of 5th graders score on the bottom two levels this year compared to last year in English Language Arts. In addition, for the second year in a row, more than half of 6th graders scored levels 1 and 2 in English Language Arts.

The same trend is true for Midtown 5th graders in math, with more than 75 percent of students scoring in the bottom two levels this year compared to about 47 percent last year. More than half of 6th and 7th graders scored in bottom 2 levels in English also.

Midtown Principal Josalyn Filkins said a close look at the data shows “tremendous test score gains.”

“In fact, to illustrate the arbitrary nature of test scores, a close analysis of our students shows that 102 out of 312 scores (33 percent) were less than 1 percent away from reaching a higher proficiency level,” Filkins pointed out.

At Reimagine Prep, a smaller percentage of students scored level 1 in 5th grade English Language Arts and about the same percentage scored in levels 4 and 5. While a higher percentage of students scored level 1 in 5th grade math this year, a significantly higher percentage of students also scored at levels 4 and 5.

RePublic Schools Director of External Affairs Erika Berry pointed out that for the same cohort of students — that is, the previous year’s 5th graders who became 6th graders last school year — proficiency rates for math went up 15 points. She also said RePublic’s new school Smilow Prep outperformed Reimagine’s first year in all subjects.

“That was exciting to see for a new school,” Erika Berry, director of external affairs at RePublic Charter Schools, said.

Top 10 and bottom 10 school districts

Top 10 math: Petal, Booneville, Oxford, Enterprise, Clinton, Desoto Co., Ocean Springs, Union, Biloxi, Long Beach

Top 10 English Language Arts: Madison County, Petal, Ocean Springs, Oxford, Union County, Clinton, Pass Christian, Rankin County, Jackson County, Long Beach

Bottom 10 math: Noxubee County, West Bolivar, Wilkinson County, Clarksdale, Leland, Yazoo City, Coahoma Agricultural High School, Holmes County, Leflore County, Humphreys County

Bottom 10 English Language Arts: Clarksdale, West Bolivar, West Tallahatchie, Leflore County, Holmes County, Leland, Claiborne County, Yazoo City, Humphreys County, Coahoma Agricultural High School

(Note – The top and bottom district lists exclude charter schools because they only have certain grades within their configuration.)