The Mississippi Department of Education officially released test scores for the 2021-22 Mississippi Academic Assessment Program testing.
The scores include test results from English-language arts and math scores for grades 3-8. There are also high school and middle school level course scores for Algebra I, English II, U.S. History and Biology.
Test scores are used in part to determine state accountability ratings for public school districts.
The test scores are separated into five levels. Students who fall into levels 1 and 2 did not pass the state assessments, whereas in levels 3, 4 and 5 students passed. Scoring in levels 4 and 5 is considered proficient.
The state assessments were not administered for the 2019-20 school year because of COVID, so the pre-pandemic data ends with the 2018-19 school year. However, testing resumed during the 2020-21 school year.
Last year school districts attributed low scores from the ‘20-21 school year to hybrid-learning and not having students in school full-time. This year, though, area superintendents and administrators say the uptick in nearly all passing rates is due to having students back in school full-time.
Lowndes County School District Superintendent Sam Allison said the increase in test scores is mostly due to the teachers putting in the hard work in classrooms.
“We’ve got great people from our teachers, to our assistants to our administrators that go to work because they see growth in kids,” Allison said.
“That’s academic growth, maturing, just making a difference. … I genuinely believe our people evaluate what they do and can take the things that are good and always look for ways to be better.”
Columbus Municipal School District
Most of the Columbus Municipal School District’s passing rates increased from last year’s assessments.
Fifty-four percent of third graders passed the ELA test, which is between last year’s 43.5 percent and the 2018-19 school year’s 64.4 percent.
Only the fifth grade and eight grade ELA passing rate saw a decrease from last year, but both are still better than a 50 percent pass rate.
The fifth grade ELA pass rate went down 3.3 percent from 66.3 to 63 percent, and the eighth grade ELA pass rate slipped from 53.1 to 52.4 percent.
The English II pass rate rebounded from 32 percent to 53.2 percent, which is the largest increase for English at CMSD.
CMSD Assessment, Curriculum, and Professional Development Coordinator Debbie Murray said the district is excited to see the progress of its students after returning to in-person instruction.
“We are very excited that we are headed in the right direction,” Murray said. “Prior to COVID, all of our data indicated we were moving the district forward. However, when COVID hit we were unable to test and see those results. Thankfully, we built the foundation and I think we are finally going to see the benefits of the progress we started.”
Across the board, pass rates for mathematics saw only one decrease from last year. Seventh grade math had a pass rate of 34.3 percent, down nearly 9 percent from the previous year’s 43.1 percent.
The largest increase in passing rate in the district comes from Algebra I, which saw a 26.9 percent increase from 57.1 to 84 percent. Assistant Superintendent Craig Chapman said the increase is not because curriculum changed but because of the hard work from teachers.
“As the former high school principal, I can say I was very impressed with our math teachers and how they banded together to push our students forward,” Chapman said. “… Our two Algebra 1 teachers deserve the credit because they put in the work. They really pulled together and made sure each student received the instruction and help they needed to pass the end of the year assessment.”
Administrators at CMSD hope to continue the upward trend to rebound to pre-pandemic pass rates which is happening quicker than expected, Murray said.
“MDE helped us implement numerous safeguards to help recover from the pandemic,” Murray said. “We have utilized (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds to close the gap as quickly as possible. I think, for the most part, the education community felt the gap would be larger, but with state and federal resources, our faculty, and staff we were able to meet the needs of our students and continue pushing forward.”
Lowndes County School District
LCSD stands out above other districts with the highest pass rates, and none falling below 78 percent.
For ELA, 81.3 percent of third graders passed, which is up from 71.1 percent last year. Fifth grade saw a 2.6 percent decrease in passing from 88.5 to 85.9 percent. The lowest pass rate in ELA was 79.1 percent from eighth graders, but that is up 3 percent from 2020-21.
Math pass rates soared throughout the district, and Algebra I had the highest pass rate in the district at 97.5 percent, up nearly 20 percent from last year.
Only seventh grade math saw a decrease in last year’s math scores – 79.8 percent passed compared to the 2020-21 pass rate of 84 percent. The lowest pass rate for math in the district was 79.1 percent from third-graders, which is still an increase from the previous year’s 73.8 percent.
Allison said he would have been disappointed if there was no growth from the 2020-21 school year, and he hopes for more growth this school year.
“There were a lot of things playing (in the 2020-21 school year) that contributed to lower scores, and there were a lot of things (in the 2021-22 school year) that affected some places more than others and were COVID-related,” Allison said. “It was a much better year, but we still had many things we were dealing with. … There are a lot of successes and hard work that went into our results, but our system is built on growth.”
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District third graders had a 68.4 percent passing rate compared to 55.5 percent in 2021.
The lowest passing rate in ELA is also a decrease from last year. 56.3 percent of fourth-graders passed the ELA assessment compared to 57.8 percent in 2020-21. It was not the only decrease in ELA, though.
Only 62.2 percent of eighth-graders passed the test in 2021-22, compared to 64.9 percent in 2020-21. The pass rate in the district stayed above 56 percent for ELA.
Superintendent Tony McGee, who just began his first school year in the district, said there is urgency for this year to improve and not decline.
“We always want to see an uptick in scores,” McGee said. “This does put some urgency on us for next year. Not only do we have to maintain those scores, but we have to exceed those scores.”
Math scores in SOCSD saw an improvement with a pass rate of at least 53 percent or more in each grade. The lowest score was eighth grade math with a 53.4 percent pass rate, and the highest is in Algebra I with a 92.7 pass rate.
McGee said the administrators across the district have met to discuss scores and plans moving forward to help increase student achievement and growth.
“Of course we’re always looking for growth from one year to the next,” McGee said. “We talked with our principals the other day about making sure that we are promoting one year of growth for every child that comes in. … We’re hoping to see at least a 75 to 80 percent growth in all of our students, but we shoot for 100 percent every day.”
West Point Consolidated and Noxubee County school districts
West Point Consolidated School District saw an improvement in passing scores across the board with no decrease in the previous year’s ELA or math scores.
More than 50 percent of all students passed their ELA courses. In third grade, 72.8 percent passed the ELA assessment, and 57.7 percent of fourth-graders passed the exam. The majority of the ELA scores are in the 60 percent pass range.
WPCSD students passed math in varying degrees with the lowest pass rate belonging to third grade at 46.3 percent, which is up from 22.7 percent last year. The highest passing percentage belongs to Algebra I students with 91.3 percent passing.
In the Noxubee County School District, 35.7 percent of third-graders passed the ELA assessment, which is nearly 5 percent more than the previous year. English II had the highest pass rate in English with 58.8 percent.
Math pass rates in NCSD mostly increased with only a decrease in seventh grade math – 37.6 percent passed in the 2021-22 school year compared to 45 percent in 2020-21.
The highest math passing rate is Algebra I with a 87.3 percent pass rate, up 50.9 percent from last year’s scores.
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.