How did we fare? State releases 2021 scores — most lower than pre-COVID

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Mississippi Department of Education has released statewide results from the 2020-2021 Mississippi Academic Assessment Program.

The MAAP results provide the first statewide measure of student performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time since MAAP tests were first administered in 2016, student proficiency decreased in mathematics and English Language Arts. Students were last tested in 2019 and reached an all-time high for proficiency in math and ELA.

Statewide, students scored 47.4% in mathematics proficiency in 2019. The percentage fell to 35.1% in 2021.

Students scored 41.6% in ELA proficiency in 2019, and 34.9% in 2021.

Proficiency levels fell in all grades except for eighth-grade ELA, which increased 0.1% — from 35.5% in 2019 to 35.6% in 2021.

MAAP measures students’ progress toward academic goals that equip them with skills and knowledge needed to succeed in college and the workforce. Mississippi teachers helped develop MAAP tests, which align with classroom learning goals. MAAP measures student performance in ELA and math in grades 3-8 and in high school Algebra I and English II.

“The disruption and stress caused by COVID-19 has had an impact on student performance in every state in the county and the impact has been more marked in mathematics than in English Language Arts,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright. “I am proud of the way Mississippi students, families, teachers and school leaders persevered through the most challenging school year of their lives.”

Students had their school year cut short in spring 2020 when the pandemic shut down school buildings in Mississippi and the United States. Though most Mississippi students had access to in-person learning most of the 2020-21 school year, hybrid learning, quarantining and numerous weather-related school building closures created obstacles to teaching and learning.

The MDE provided districts pandemic-related flexibilities to administer the assessments. Schools provided safe testing environments to all students including full-time virtual learners who took assessments at schools. The overall participation rate for assessments was 96.9%, close to the 98%-99% rates of previous years.

Due to COVID disruptions, third-grade students were not required to meet a passing score on the reading assessment to be promoted to grade 4. Students still had to meet all other district requirements for promotion. Students who took required end-of-course high school assessments including Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History were not required to meet a passing score.

“This year’s statewide assessments provide valuable information about the impact of the pandemic on learning and will help identify where accelerated learning opportunities for students are most needed,” Wright said.

Though overall statewide proficiency levels dropped, proficiency levels did not drop in every grade, subject and school.

Notably, Ocean Springs School District improved its districtwide ELA proficiency level since 2019.

“For our students to show continued growth and improved proficiency during such a difficult time in their lives is such an outstanding accomplishment,” said Dr. Bonita Coleman, superintendent of Ocean Spring School District.

Pre-pandemic, statewide student proficiency rates increased every year since MAAP tests were first administered. By 2019, Mississippi had become a national leader in education because students were making faster progress than nearly every other state. Several factors contributed to the steady rise in student achievement including the implementation of higher academic standards and statewide support to teachers to help students reach higher standards. The effective implementation of several education reform laws and policies that developed or strengthened early childhood education, literacy instruction, school and district accountability, and advanced learning opportunities for high school students.

“This year establishes a new baseline for statewide assessments,” Wright said. “As the world moves to recover from the pandemic, I am confident Mississippi students will progress just as rapidly as they did before.”

How schools in Lincoln County fared

Sampling only third and eighth grades and high school scores, the majority of ELA, math and history scores dropped for schools in the county, though some did rise. Considering the students tested in 2021 were not the same students tested in 2019 on that grade level, scores are still utilized as an indicator of instructional quality and effectiveness.

In the Brookhaven School District scores fell from 2019 to 2021 in all but two areas — eighth-grade ELA scores jumped from 27% of students reaching proficiency level 4 or 5 to 40.2%; and third-grade math scores climbed from 26.6% at levels 4 and 5 to 33.5%.

Fewer students reached the highest proficiency levels in each of the following: third-grade ELA, 46.1% down to 19.6%; English II down from 38.4% to 24.1%; eighth-grade math from 48.8% to 45.1%; and Algebra I — 42.4% to 23.4% at BHS and 94.8% to 81.8% at Alexander Jr. High.

In the Lincoln County School District, overall scores dropped in each of the sampled grades except eighth-grade math, where the 4/5 level proficiency rate rose from 32.7% to 33.1%. Fewer students reached highest proficiency in: English II, 46.7% down to 39.9%; eighth-grade ELA, 38.5% to 37.1%; third-grade ELA from 49.6% to 44.9%; third-grade math down from 45.6% to 31.5%; and Algebra I down dramatically from 33.3% to 14.5%.

In 2021 U.S. History scores, Mississippi School of the Arts had the second-highest percentage of students at high performance levels — 90.9% — trailing only the 97.7% score of Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. MSA was not included in the English and math proficiency scores.

For 2021, 35.2% of Brookhaven High School U.S. History students reached the highest levels, compared to 60% in 2019.

In 2019, 61.2% of Lincoln County School District students reached proficiency 4/5 in U.S. History. In 2021, the percentage increased to 64.2%.

ACT results

ACT results statewide for the 2020-2021 school year dropped. In 2020, 10% of students met all four benchmark scores — English composition, algebra, social science and biology. The overall score dropped to 8.9% in 2021. English dropped from 39% to 37.4%; algebra dropped from 16.5% to 14.7%; social science fell from 25.5% to 23.5%; and biology went down from 18.3% to 15.5%.

Mississippi School for the Arts had an average ACT composite of 20.4 in 2021, compared to 21.8 in 2020.

Brookhaven High School dropped from a 17.2 overall average score to 16.9.

Lincoln County Schools actually rose overall by 0.2 points, from 17.6 in 2020 to 17.8. Each individual school rose by at least 0.1 points in average scores — West Lincoln rose from 19.3 to 19.4; Loyd Star rose from 17.3 to 17.4; Bogue Chitto climbed from 16.7 to 17.2; and Enterprise raised its average from 16.7 to 17.4.