The Mississippi State Board of Education waived passing score requirements for high school end-of-course assessments and the third grade literacy test this school year.
The board also voted to allow schools and districts to suspend the assignment of letter grades, which measure school and district performance, for the 2020-21 year.
Although passing requirements are waived, state testing will still be administered. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, and other education officials have said it is important to have that data to determine the impact of the pandemic on student learning. It is also mandated by the U.S. Department of Education.
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. This year, third grade students who do not pass the test will still be promoted and receive additional support in the fourth grade, according to the board.
High schoolers take tests in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History, and will not be prevented from graduating if they don’t pass these assessments this year.
Gov. Tate Reeves in April issued an executive order granting the State Board of Education the ability to suspend or amend state laws and policies if necessary to cope with the effects of the coronavirus.
Earlier this month Wright told lawmakers the Mississippi Department of Education would be making these recommendations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she felt it was important for this to be a “year of grace” and that holding children accountable in this way would be unfair. On Thursday, the board approved her recommendations.
Board Chair Jason Dean emphasized that assessment and accountability will return to normal in the 2021-22 school year, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
The board also approved adjustments and waivers of parts of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, including identifying struggling schools and the timelines for improvement in those schools.