Less than half score well on tests: BSD, LCSD receive state test scores

Published 10:43 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Results of a statewide assessment that attracted controversy in the spring are in and show that less than half of local high school students met or exceeded expectations in algebra I and English II.

The series of standardized tests created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is aligned with Common Core standards. Many parents tried to opt out of the testing for their children.

The state cut ties with the testing group in January, but students still took the assessment in the 2014-2015 school year. The PARCC assessment replaced Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT2) for English language arts and mathematics for grades 3 through 8 and the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP2) for algebra I and English II for high school students.

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“The new assessment, which replaced MCT2 and SATP2 previous end-of-year tests in English language arts and mathematics, asked students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing and problem solving,” according to the state Department of Education.

Results show that a plurality of Brookhaven students scored at Level 2 on the algebra I portion of the test and at Level 3 on the English II portion. According to PARCC, students scoring Level 4 or 5 are meeting or exceeding expectations. Students scoring at Level 3 are approaching expectations and know a significant amount of content, but may need additional assistance in mastering all aspects of the standards. Students scoring a Level 1 or 2 need more assistance in learning the content and are in need of greater supports.

About 23 percent of Brookhaven students scored at Level 4 and 5 combined in algebra. The number was 31 percent for English II.

In Lincoln County, a plurality of students scored at Level 3 in the algebra I portion and at Level 4 in English II. About 23 percent scored at Level 4 and 5 combined in algebra, while 48 percent scored at that level in English.

Mississippi’s subject area test in 2013-2014 showed 76 percent of students statewide were proficient or advanced in algebra I, compared to 27.4 percent on the PARCC assessment. For English II, 56 percent of Mississippi students were proficient or advanced in 2013-2014, compared to 49 percent on the PARCC test.

The drop was expected. State Superintendent Carey Wright said standards on Mississippi’s old tests were too low.

“Our cut scores are not going to be below proficient,” she said.

There was wide variation among Mississippi’s 145 school districts. On the bottom end, Clarksdale and Yazoo City had no students who met or exceeded expectations in algebra, while at the top end, more than two-thirds of students reached those levels in Gulfport, Forrest County and Enterprise.

“There were some pleasant surprises in there for some of the districts, and it wasn’t as bad overall as I feared it would be,” said Rachel Canter. She leads Mississippi First, a nonprofit group that advocates for education improvements and has been critical in the past of low standards. “I think it does show there are some school districts that doing what they need to be doing.”

The tests also serve as end-of-course exams for students taking those subjects. Wright said the department decided, without a vote by the Board of Education, that a Level 3 would serve as a passing score for graduation purposes. That means roughly 40 percent of all students, or 17,000 statewide, failed the algebra test, while 27 percent failed the English test.

Formerly, students had to pass four subject area tests to graduate, but in 2014, the Board of Education approved alternative paths to a diploma. This year, students can also average their scores across one or more tests to create a composite score. Thus, students who failed the algebra exam could still graduate if they had done well enough on the biology, English and history exams.

Spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle said students who don’t meet other graduation options will be able to try again on the state’s new exams, but won’t retake the PARCC tests.

The state is preparing letters for school districts to send to parents explaining the new test results, as well as information for teachers. Wright and state assessment director J.P. Beaudoin said that even though Mississippi won’t give the PARCC again, they want teachers to use the results to help identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students and help them improve.

Staff and Wire Report