Approximately 69 Columbus third graders are facing the possibility of being held back after the state Department of Education released the passing requirements for the first statewide reading test Friday.
In April, every third grader in the state — roughly 38,000 students — took a 50-question test to gauge their reading level. Each student is required to be reading at grade level before moving to the fourth grade.
The Columbus Municipal School District had 69 out of 364 third graders, or 19 percent, fail the test.
The Lowndes County School District had 30 out of 396 third graders, or 7 percent, fail the test.
MDE says 5,600 students, or 15 percent, of third graders statewide came in below the passing mark.
Students that failed to pass the test can take it again this month and again over the summer. Those who don’t pass must repeat third grade while receiving intensive tutoring.
CMSD has stepped up efforts this year to get students at grade level, but work remains to be done.
“As a superintendent, I feel we fail if one student is held back because we did not prepare them to read on grade level,” said CMSD superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman. “We will look at the results and work tirelessly to close the gap.”
Lowndes County School District officials said they are proud of the score. Spence Andrews, testing coordinator at LCSD, told The Dispatch his district uses the same Renaissance reading system used by the testing organization to teach their students. He thinks they will be able to get remaining students up to speed by next school year.
“Everybody will work hard with these students over the summer,” Andrews said.
In the Starkville School District, superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway told The Dispatch that 55 of 350 third graders failed. Eleven of the 55 will be able to move on due to their English Language Learner status, Holloway said. Of the 55 who did not pass, 52 had been under extra supervision within the district.
“All these students were known to us, and we’ve been working with them since they were in first grade,” Holloway said.
Holloway echoed concerns Hickman had communicated to The Dispatch last week: Holding kids back past kindergarten can be harmful to the student.
“I think the outcome of this third-gate is going to be us retaining more kindergartners, first graders and second graders,” he said. “I really think holding these kids back will ultimately hurt their chances of graduating.”
Many parents may not get results until this week. State officials said late Friday that heavy online computer traffic overwhelmed Renaissance Learning, the contractor that provides the test, and some school districts could not download specific reports.
Across the state, approximately 32,200, or 85 percent, passed the test.
The test was written for Mississippi only, but national tests show Mississippi students have among the lowest achievement levels.
Florida, for example, initially retained 19 percent of third-graders last year and ultimately held back 7 percent after retests and exemptions.
Many Mississippi districts plan summer school programs to help struggling students cross the bar on that third test administration. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation will give $2.4 million to help improve teachers’ skills as well as to provide some tutoring in summer schools.
Mississippi has spent more than $38 million to help train teachers in advance of the mandate taking effect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.