JACKSON — Because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Mississippi third graders and high school students will still take state-mandated exams this semester but will not be penalized for poor performance.
And, although schools will be assessed based on their performance, they will not be assigned new A through F “report card” grades this academic year.
The state Board of Education decided Thursday to set aside the new report card grades for schools and the requirement for students to earn passing grades on the third grade reading assessment and high school end-of-course exams.
“This year’s statewide assessments will provide valuable information about the impact of COVID-19 on learning and will help identify where accelerated learning opportunities for students are most needed,” state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said in a news release. “The policy suspensions are intended to support schools through this intensely challenging year for educators and students.”
Schools will keep the report card grades they earned in the 2018-19 school year. The school assessments were not done for 2019-20 because of the pandemic.
Mississippi usually requires third graders to show they can read proficiently before they are promoted to the fourth grade.
Passing grades also are usually required on end-of-course exams in algebra I, English II, biology and U.S. history so students can graduate. Students must still fulfill other state and local requirements to earn a high school diploma, the state Department of Education said in the news release.
An executive order signed by Gov. Tate Reeves months ago allows the state Board of Education to suspend rules and regulations to cope with the pandemic.
Reeves closed schools for in-person instruction in March, after the first virus cases were found in Mississippi, and schools remained closed through the end of the 2019-20 academic year. The abrupt switch to online classes was challenging because some students lacked laptops or tablets and did not have internet access at home.
For the 2020-21 school year, each school district has set its own policy of having in-person or online classes, or a mix of the two. The state used some of its federal coronavirus relief money to make a bulk purchase of laptops and tablets, and those devices were distributed to students during the fall semester. Some students, though, are still struggling with internet access, particularly in poor or rural areas.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.