Alex Rozier, Mississippi Today


National test results released Tuesday show that Mississippi students are improving in reading, while math scores remain unchanged.

Detailed data from 2017 was released Tuesday for the Nation’s Report Card, officially known as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). NAEP tests fourth and eighth grade students on what they know and what they can do in math and reading. Previous results are from 2015.

For the 2017 assessment, 298,200 fourth graders and 286,800 eighth graders participated in both public and private schools in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools. This year’s results are the first time the test was taken digitally, and states are scored on a 500 point scale.

Mississippi saw a “statistically significant” four point improvement in eighth grade reading with an average of 256, while fourth grade reading improved one point to 215 from 2015 results. Nearly a third (27 percent) of fourth graders were at or above proficient, while 25 percent of eighth graders were.

“Commitment to higher academic standards, intense focus on literacy, effective professional development and hard work of teachers and administrators resulted in Mississippi students maintaining progress on the NAEP assessment and significantly increasing performance in 8th grade reading,” Mississippi State Superintendent Carey Wright said in a statement. “We cannot let up on higher expectations for students.”

Alex Rozier, Mississippi Today


Overall, Mississippi saw no improvement in fourth or eighth grade math in the 2017 assessment, but the state has continued to improve since 1992, the first year Mississippi has NAEP results. Nationally, 40 percent of fourth graders scored at or above proficient, while Mississippi trails with 31 percent. For eighth grade, 22 percent of students were at or above proficient, compared to 33 percent nationally.

Similar to the national trend, white students in Mississippi in both grades continued to outperform black students in math and reading by more than 20 points. White students also outperformed Hispanic students, but by a smaller margin.

Hispanic students improved by 10 points in fourth grade math with an average of 239 in 2017 — the Mississippi Department of Education attributed the increase to more students being tested in 2017 than 2015.

State Education Superintendent Carey Wright

“Mississippi’s NAEP scores affirm that we are moving in the right direction for improving academic achievement, but we still have more work to do to ensure every child, regardless of race, poverty-level or disability, has the same opportunity to excel. That’s why our state’s strategic plan places an intense focus on improving educational outcomes in all subgroups of students,” Wright said, referring to the state’s recently approved Mississippi Succeeds plan.

MDE Chief Academic Officer Kim Benton noted that multiple factors contribute to achievement gaps between students, such as socioeconomic issues, lack of quality early childhood education or language barriers.

Benton said the Mississippi Succeeds plan specifically accounts for this by setting growth plans for each subgroup of students. The department is working to shrink the gap by providing additional support for English language learners and their families — MDE recently hired an English learner interventionist “to assist districts in designing instructional strategies to improve learning opportunities for students,” she said.

Benton added that NAEP scores reflect the results of a sample of students, not the entire population.

“However, we believe that commitment and successful implementation of rigorous learning standards and an increased focus on literacy helped Mississippi maintain the gains achieved from 2015 to 2017,” Benton said. “Through ongoing professional development of teachers, we are seeing the results in the classroom, and we expect to see more growth in the future.”

To view 2017 NAEP scores, click here.



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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.