Education task force named to examine state testing

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A wide group of teachers, legislators and other education officials were named Wednesday to a new task force to study student testing, the Mississippi Department of Education announced.

Kayleigh Skinner/Mississippi Today

State Education Superintendent Carey Wright

In a release, the department announced the members of the Mississippi Student Testing Task Force, which State Superintendent Carey Wright said last month will be charged with studying local and state testing.

High school seniors will also have the chance to serve on the task force but they need to apply through this link.  The Department of Education will ultimately choose four students from each of Mississippi’s congressional districts to serve and participate in discussions about how “to ensure the state prepares them for college, the work force or the military,” according to the release.

Together, members will examine the types, quality, and number of tests students take at both the state and district level and create a report by December with findings and recommendations.

Governor's office

Krystal Cormack

Task force member Krystal Cormack, chair of the state’s Charter School Authorizer Board, said she was honored to participate, and the group “came about as a result of parents and communities asking questions about what’s the right amount of testing for our students.” Cormack said she hopes the task force will look at how testing information is collected so the state is better informed on students’ testing experiences.

Members of the public can send their comments on testing to [email protected]

In April, nonprofit advocacy group Mississippi First released a report urging more transparency in how often students are tested and what they are tested for.  The report examined four anonymous school districts and found that in those four districts, grades 3-8 spent the most time in state testing. The report also found that the time spent taking a test is not reflective of how much time districts devote to preparing students for standardized testing.

Mississippi First

Rachel Canter

Mississippi First Executive Director Rachel Canter, who is also a member, said she would like the task force to examine the findings highlighted in the report and see if adopting any of its recommendations are feasible. One of the suggestions urged the Department of Education to create a guide for parents about state testing and press state test vendors for a quicker turnaround on score reporting so teachers have more time to analyze their students’ data.

The group will meet for the first time on June 19th at 9 a.m. Task force members:

• Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education

• Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison

• House Education Chairman Richard Bennett

• Buddy Bailey, Mississippi State Board of Education

• Sean Suggs, Mississippi State Board of Education

• Kristina Pollard, principal, Earl Travillion Attendance Center, Forest County School District

• Rachel Canter, executive director, Mississippi First

• Tim Martin, Clinton Public Schools

• Amy Carter, Meridian Public Schools

• Eddie Peasant, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District

• Jennifer Wilson, Greenwood Public School District

• Robyn Killebrew, 2017-18 Milken Educator, principal of Pass Christian High School

• Howard Savage Jr., 2018 Administrator of the Year, principal of Quitman High School

• Robert Sanders, principal, Mendenhall High School

• Jessica Broome, 2017 Administrator of the Year, principal of Pearl Junior High School

• Whitney Drewrey, 2018 Teacher of the Year, 3rd – 5th grade special education teacher at Lafayette Upper Elementary School, Lafayette County School District

• Luke Daniels, 2017 Teacher of the Year, 6th grade mathematics teacher at Petal Upper Elementary in the Petal School District

• Lora Rance Evans, 2016 Parent of the Year, Greenwood Public School District

• Kelly Riley, executive director, Mississippi Professional Educators

• Joyce Helmick, president, Mississippi Association of Educators

• Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie

• Steven Hampton, research and accountability director, Lamar County Schools

• Krystal Cormack, chair, Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board

• Dr. Jay Smith, retired Long Beach School District superintendent

Ex-officio members of the task force:

• Kim Benton, chief academic officer, Mississippi Department of Education

• Paula Vanderford, chief accountability officer, Mississippi Department of Education

• Christy Hovanetz, Foundation for Excellence in Education

• Chris Domaleski, associate director, Center for Assessment

• Rebecca Staples, Lieutenant Governor’s Office

• T.J. Taylor, Speaker of the House’s Office