The COVID-19 pandemic and school closures adversely affected statewide test scores, but state officials said the drop wasn’t as bad as expected and was less than surrounding states.
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright told media members in a Zoom call that while the annual accountability grades for districts and individual schools won’t be given out in October, the Mississippi Department of Education will issue a report next month utilizing the components of the accountability model that include test scores and graduation rates.
The Mississippi Academic Assessment Program tests, which have been given to students since 2016, showed decreases in both mathematics and English language arts. In 2019, the last time the tests were administered, 47.4 percent of students met minimum proficiency in mathematics. In 2021, that fell to 35.1 percent, a reduction of 12.3 percent.
The reduction reflected the 2020 experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, when students were out of school for six weeks and spend much of the rest of year in virtual learning at home. The state Board of Education voted to skip testing last year because of the pandemic.
For ELA, it amounted to a loss of 6.7 percent (41.6 in 2019 to 34.9 percent met standards in 2021). All proficiency levels fell except for eighth grade ELA, which increased by a miniscule 0.1 percent.
“I think the districts pivoted and did the very best they could,” Wright said. “The fact we only dropped by six points is a credit to the hard work our teachers have put in to build that foundation that our children need in mathematics. There were districts that continue to improve their proficiency rates, so this isn't a glass half empty story, this is a glass half full story. Our participation rate was amazing.”
The federal standard for participation rate is 95.4 percent and Mississippi had a participation rate of 98.4 percent. The state also had the highest participation rate in the ACT test nationally. Mississippi is one of several states that administer the ACT to all of its juniors and seniors.
Wright credited the smaller drop than expected with the literacy initiatives and professional development for teachers.
MAAP measures student performance in ELA and mathematics in third through eighth grades and high school English and Algebra.
Students in third grade were not required to have a passing score on the reading test to advance to fourth grade during the 2020 school year, while high school students who took the end-of-year tests in Algebra I, English II, biology and U.S. history weren’t mandated to have a passing score.
In mathematics, Petal was the highest scoring district, with 68.2 percent of its students scoring at proficient and advanced, with Ocean Springs second (64.4 percent). Among the schools with less than five percent of students scoring at that level included the Yazoo City Municipal School District, Jackson-based charter school Smilow Collegiate, North Panola, Humphreys County, Holmes County, Wilkinson County, West Tallahatchie, Noxubee County (under a state takeover) and the Greenville Public School District.
In science, Ocean Springs had the highest percentage of students scoring at proficient or advanced (79 percent), with Pass Christian next at 75.3 percent. The Yazoo Municipal School District was worst, with only 8.8 percent of its students meeting the standard of proficient or advanced.
In the new U.S. history test that was first administered last year, the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and the School of the Arts held the top two spots for the percentage of students scoring at proficient or better, while Ocean Springs (80.2) and Petal (73.3 percent) were the best scoring districts. The worst showing was the North Panola District with 6.3 percent meeting this standard, followed by Aberdeeen (7.9 percent) and Leland (9.3 percent).
MAAP results show the Jackson Public School District continues to lag surrounding districts in terms of academic performance in ELA. The Madison County School District had the best scores in the metro.
JPS had 92.4 percent of its students take the English Language Arts assessments. Madison County had 98.7 participation, while Pearl had 99.4 percent, Rankin County and Clinton each had 98.4 percent, Canton had 92.1 percent and Hinds County had 98.8 percent.
In mathematics, 92.4 percent of JPS students took the assessment, while 98.7 percent in Madison did so. Clinton had a 98.6 participation rate, Pearl had 99.4 percent, Rankin County had 98.3 percent, Hinds County had 98.2 percent while Canton had 91.5 percent participation.
In third grade ELA, the state average score was 356.59, with JPS the worst in the metro with a 346.06. Madison County led the way in the metro with a 368.1 score, followed by Clinton with a 367.89, Rankin County with 362.07, Pearl with a 360.6, Hinds County with a 352.38 and Canton had 349.6.
In fourth grade ELA, the average score statewide was 457.02. JPS had the lowest scores in the metro with a 445.29, while Madison County led the way with an average score of 469.73. Rankin County was next with an average score of 468.47, followed by Clinton with 467.1, Pearl had 463.48, Hinds County had 453.62 and Canton with 450.95.
Fifth grade ELA MAAP assessments had an average score of 560.9. Madison County had a score of 567.24 to lead the metro area, while JPS was last with a 553.89. Rankin County was second best with a 566.93, with Clinton next with a 565.57, Pearl had 562.01, Hinds County had 557.3 and Canton had 555.26.
In sixth grade ELA, Madison County had a score of 662.75, considerably above the state average of 655.65. JPS students scored an average of 648.62. Rankin County scores on the sixth grade ELA lagged only a few percentage points behind Madison with a 662.26, with Clinton next at 663.94, Pearl following with a 658.08, Hinds County at 652.81 and Canton with a 648.47.
The state average in seventh grade ELA scores was 757.54, with Madison scoring above that at 764.24. JPS had an average score of 752.19. Clinton with a 765.7, Rankin County next with a score of 762.54, Pearl had a 760.71, Hinds County with a 758.05 and Canton with a 750.93.
The average score for eighth grade ELA MAAP scores was 858.35 and Madison County exceeded that average with an average of 866.4. JPS lagged the other metro districts with an average score of 852.37. Clinton was only a few percentage points behind Madison with an 866.03, followed by Rankin with 863.25 Pearl with 861.98, Hinds County with an 856.37 and Canton with an 852.26.
In English II, the average score statewide was 1057.15. Madison had the highest scores in the area with a 1064.19, followed by Pearl (1064.18), Clinton (1063.72), Rankin County (1061.58), Hinds County (1055.53) and Canton (1046.65). JPS again lagged with a 1046.21.
In third grade mathematics, the JPS had an average score of 337.19, below the state average of 356.39. Madison County exceeded the state average with an average of 371.43, followed by Clinton (368.38), Rankin County (364.36), Pearl (358.64), Hinds County (352.24) and Canton (343.92).
Fourth grade mathematics had an average statewide score of 455.71. JPS had the lowest scores in the metro with a 439.56. Clinton led the way with a 474.18, followed by Rankin with a 469.01, Madison with a 468.52, Pearl with a 463.59, Hinds County had a 450.01 and Canton with a 446.
Clinton led the metro with a 568.25 score on fifth grade math, followed by Rankin County (567.14), Madison County (565.24), Pearl (561.23), Hinds County (552.81) and Canton (548.38). JPS had the worst scores again in the metro with a 546.4, below the state average of 558.22.
In sixth grade math, Rankin County lead the way with an average score of 669.37. Clinton had a 666.31, Madison County had a 661.6, Pearl had a 657.01, Hinds County was next with a 650.45 and Canton was next to last with a 646.03. JPS had the lowest scores with a 641.08, below the state average of 657.14.
Clinton was the leader in the seventh-grade math assessment with an average score of 774.17. JPS was lowest with an average score of 751.85, below the state average of 763.03. Rankin County was second best with a 771.17, followed by Madison County (769.84), Pearl (765.05), Hinds County (762.28) and Canton (751.71).
Clinton led the metro in eighth grade math scores with an 871.46 average score followed by Madison County with a 867.05, Rankin County with a 865.78, Pearl with a 864.79, Hinds County with a 892.86 and Canton with a 845.33. JPS was last in the metro with an average score of 842.83, again below the state average of 856.93.
In Algebra, JPS had the lowest average scores in the metro area with a 1049.79, below the state average of 1060. Madison County had the highest scores (1068.52), followed by Rankin County with 1066.68, Pearl with 1066, Clinton with 1064.16, Hinds County with 1056.69 and Canton with 1055.73.