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Math achievement rises, English flat on new Mississippi test

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi students fared roughly the same or slightly better in the first year of a new standardized test than on the previous test, according to results released Thursday by the Mississippi Department of Education.

"We saw that students either sustained in performance or improved from 2014-15 to 2015-16," said state Superintendent Carey Wright. "It's obvious that teachers are focusing on instruction that meets the standards and we are seeing results."

In the second year that Mississippi gave juniors the ACT college test, composite scores rose from 17.6 to 18.3. Nationwide, students typically average a 21.

Last spring was the first time students took the new Mississippi Assessment Program tests, written solely for the Magnolia State, after the public school system dropped out of the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests under political pressure. Those PARCC tests, the first that were given to measure achievement on Mississippi's Common Core-linked academic standards, were given only in the 2014-2015 school year .

"MAP raises the level of expectations for all students and provides parents, I think, a better picture of where their children are on the path to college or career or work," compared to the tests Mississippi gave before PARCC. The old tests were criticized for describing too many students as proficient when national tests showed otherwise.

The changeover to a different test is always bumpy, but the new tests are supposed to be as tough as PARCC and assess the same body of learning. There are five levels of achievement on the computerized tests, minimal, basic, passing, proficient and advanced.

On language arts, which tests reading and writing, 33 percent of students in grades 3-8 and high school scored at proficient or advanced levels. Another 33 percent scored at a passing level, which indicates substantial knowledge, but not proficiency. The bottom third scored in the minimal and basic categories.

The picture was similar in math, with 31 percent of students scoring proficient or higher, while 35 percent scored at passing. There too, a third of students statewide were basic or minimal.

"Students are continuing to perform at a high level," J.P. Beaudoin, the state department's chief research and development officer, told board members Thursday. "There's room for improvement, but there's plenty of room for celebration."

He particularly highlighted a sharp rise in the share of students scoring at the advanced level, and a decline in the share of students scoring at the minimal level. That was true on all tests except the English II subject test that high school students take.

Beaudoin said a teacher panel set the score brackets higher on that exam than it had been set on PARCC. Students were once required to pass that English II test to graduate. Now, it counts for part of students' final course grades, but failing it can't alone block them from a diploma.


Online: MAP test results:


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