Petal leads state in test scores for 3-8

Petal leads state in test scores for 3-8

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Scores were released Thursday for the state tests given to third through eighth graders in math and language arts.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test was given for the first time in the 2014-2015 school year under the state's new standards for learning.

The Petal School District led the state in several areas and scored among the top 10 in every category but one.

"(These scores) are just validation that we're doing the right thing," Petal Superintendent Matt Dillon said.

Petal's third and fourth graders had the highest percentage of students in Mississippi in the top two categories for the math test, with 61.5 and 58 percent, respectively. Their fourth, fifth and sixth graders also took the top spot in the state for English Language Arts, with 60.8, 64.4, and 66.5 percent, respectively, scoring in the two highest categories.

"We're very excited for our teachers and administrators for their preparation of teaching the highest standards," Dillon said.

This is the first and last time PARCC will be given to Mississippi's students, but they will still learn the same standards in the classroom as they transition to a different test this spring. Dillon said his district's performance on PARCC proves consistency inside the classroom.

"It allows us to know that if we teach standards to a high level, we're going to do well on any test we take," he said.

These scores came about six months later than usual for school districts. Instead of receiving them in December like this round of scores, districts are accustomed to receiving scores in the summer, which is a concern for Forrest County's Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Ward.

"It has thrown us back a bit, but we've tried to use our in-district data to be very specific about the instructional practices we put in place," Ward said.

Because PARCC measures test performance differently than the previous assessment, administrators are working to understand how to analyze their students' performance in order to target areas for growth.

"We're trying to do that because it's what we do, but it's very difficult," Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said of the analysis.

PARCC separates performance into Levels 1-5, with 5 being the highest-performing. The levels are labeled minimal, partial, adequate, strong and distinguished understanding. The previous testing system, the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2nd Edition (MCT2), only had four levels, so some administrators said it was difficult to know where the students performing at the middle Level 3 should be placed.

"We have struggled early on, but we hope that in the near future that we will be able to take the data we have in-house and compare that to the data that we've gotten from PARCC and be able to focus and target instruction," Ward said.

The PARCC test is used across several states, and it is the first time Mississippi has been able to compare their performance to those across the country using the same test.

Although Mississippi fell short by just a few percentage points in each category compared to the PARCC consortium, Smith said she is proud of the growth of her schools, particularly the new Longleaf Elementary in Lamar County.

"We're always told Mississippi's 50th," Smith said. "I'm impressed to see that we did well in our own state as well as up against the other states that participated in PARCC."

To access the results for each district and school, click here.