Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education, answers questions about staffing during a legislative working group hearing centering on agencies personnel and their cost effectiveness, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Capitol in Jackson. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, AP

State testing will continue this year, but State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said Wednesday she recommends waiving the passing requirements for the statewide third grade reading test and high school end-of-course tests.

The department is also recommending schools and districts retain their letter grade from the 2018-19 school year for the 2020-21 school year.

In Mississippi, schools and districts receive a grade of A-F under the accountability system. The grade reflects their performance in areas such as student achievement, student growth, graduation rate and participation rate, which measures the percentage of students who participate in statewide testing.

Based on a 2013 law called the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, third graders in Mississippi public schools must pass a reading test to continue to fourth grade. And high schoolers take tests in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History designed to determine whether students have the knowledge and skills needed to graduate.

“I believe this needs to be a year of grace. Our schools, our teachers, and our children are under a lot of pressure about this, but knowing we have not had a standard way of instructing children — to hold children accountable, I do not feel is fair,” Wright said during a Senate education committee hearing in Jackson.

State testing will still continue this year, however, in order to assess the impact of COVID-19 on student learning and meet federal requirements.

The Legislature or Gov. Tate Reeves, via an executive order, would have to act to adopt these recommendations as they are all currently required by law.

If this happens, it would be the second school year in which districts retain 2018-19 ratings. State testing was cancelled last spring because of the pandemic, which meant there were no test results to base 2019-20 accountability ratings on. As a result, the Mississippi State Board of Education allowed all school districts to retain whatever rating they had from the previous school year.

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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.