MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released the first set of student achievement results using the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) and found children are performing well under the new standards.
Mississippi students took the MAP test, which will be the assessment the state uses for the next 10 years, to measure student performance in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics for the first time during the 2015-2016 school year.
Previously, MDE measured student success using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC test.
"The commonality between PARCC and MAP is that they are very comparable in rigor and difficulty and the fact that they also measure the same standards," State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said. "So from PARCC to MAP, the percentage of students scoring in Level 1, and as you know, that is the lowest level, dropped in mathematics and ELA, while students scoring at Level 5, which referred to as the advanced level, increased. It's obvious that teachers are focusing on instruction that meets the standards, and we are seeing the results."
In math, 31.1 percent of Mississippi students in grades three through nine scored in the top two tiers, Levels 4 and 5, which are classified as proficient and advanced respectively.
"Approximately 82,000 students tested in fours and fives," said J.P. Beaudoin, MDE chief of research and development. "That is fairly consistent with what was observed the prior year on PARCC."
In ELA, 32.6 percent tested into Levels 4 and 5, which Beaudoin said is about 81,000 students.
Petal School District students are performing in the top two tiers in both math and ELA.
"As I look at our math and English Language Arts proficiency levels, we're rated top in the state in math and right there at four in English Language Arts," said Petal Superintendent Matt Dillon.
The majority of Mississippi test-takers scored in Level 3, which MDE classifies as passing.
"The achievement level three is not proficient," Beaudoin said. "These are students that still need supports in order to be able to successfully move forward in mastering the content standards, which we also refer to that as being proficient or advanced."
Wright said, "We have a lot of students at Level 3, which is approaching proficiency, in both math and ELA, and while that tells me we have room for growth, we also know that with some additional supports from teachers and students and good, strong instruction. I believe we are definitely going to see more students reach proficiency."
Wright and Beaudoin said the MAP test requires critical thinking, application and analysis, which makes the test more difficult.
"Whether they want to go into college or straight into the workplace, students are going to need to be able to think, to read, to work things numerically, solve complex problems," Wright said. "I mean, this is just an expectation of the world, and that's our commitment to districts and parents and teachers – to ensure that everybody has the capacity to do that. This new assessment asks students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge in skills and areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing and problem solving, and this is only the second year in which we have asked our students to meet these higher learning goals. I am proud that more students are on track to being better prepared for higher education and careers."
Dillon said his students were prepared to meet higher standard on a new test because his teachers focus on classroom content.
"We teach the standards and the curriculum," Dillon said. "We don't focus so much as on the test, so we feel like if we teach it to the high level in the classroom, we're going to perform on whatever test is put in front of us. They're not worrying about the format of the test, but just the content itself."
Beaudoin said, "All of the assessments were purposefully designed by Mississippi teachers. They're aligned to Mississippi content standards. All of the passages that students were required to read are on grade level only, and the types of questions that we ask both in mathematics and English, what we call second generation items, they are more difficult. They are designed for students to be able to think critically and to be able to measure that as a life skill when they progress both in school and as they move out of school."
Wright said, "When you're seeing less in Level 1, that means children are obtaining more knowledge and moving to a higher performance level, just as you're seeing Level 5 grow. That is, that's a tough level to grow. That advanced level, to reach there, is a student that is excelling well beyond what you would expect the average student to excel."
Wright said she also expects student performance to improve as teachers and students continue to adjust to those higher academic standards..
"Student performance is expected to rise over time as teachers and students continue to implement the standards and get used to the test," Wright said. "I just need to say, I am so very proud of the teaching staff across the state because they have definitely done an excellent job of providing some sound instruction to our students. In the aggregate in math in grades three through eight, last year, in level one, we had 12.4 percent of our students there. This year, we have 7.7. That means fewer of our children are scoring at the lowest level possible."
"Likewise, last year, grades three through eight mathematics, we had 1.7 percent of our children at level five, and this year, we've got 6.6. So that lets you know that the work that the teachers are doing in the schools is working," Wright added. "They're sticking to the standards. They're employing the standards on a regular basis. Professional development has been focus on the standards, and as children acquire more knowledge and more, the ability to respond to the standards, you should then see more move from level two to level three and more move from level three to level four, etc. What we're saying is that the biggest bunch right now we've got is at level three. That's the good news. The good news is on any of these tests, that's the largest group that you've got, and the good news is, those are children that with additional help and additional focusing on those standards that they're not doing well, it's not going to take them long to move into level four, which is at proficiency."
To see how your district ranked, click here.