District concerned about state test

Published 1:29 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

Third graders must score higher to be promoted

By Jeremy Weldon

Changes in the scoring requirements for third grade students to be promoted to fourth grade may mean more children in the South Panola School District will be retained based on test results from last school year.

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Superintendent Tim Wilder informed the district’s Board of Trustees about the decision by the Mississippi Department of Education at Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the board. The district’s passing rate last year was 96.4 percent, but Wilder warned that the new benchmark set the by the state, if applied to last year’s first-time test takers, would have resulted in 10 to 15 percent of third graders not being allowed to pass.

“I do anticipate a higher percentage of students not passing on the first test. I hope I’m wrong but the simple fact is that now it takes a much higher score to pass,” Wilder said. “I never would have imagined when I started my education career that someday a third grader would have to pass a state test be be promoted, but that’s what we have.”

All Mississippi third graders take the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program’s English Language Arts section during the spring semester. In past years students were required to score a Level 2 to be promoted to fourth grade, but now must reach a Level 3 score.

Additionally, re-testers have historically been given the opportunity to take the STAR Literacy Assessment, but the state has not yet decided which test to use for retakes. “I feel quite confident in our percentages if they use the STAR test because it’s the same test we are familiar with.”

“There’s a good chance, not just in this district, but statewide, that you are going to see a lot of first time test takers who do not pass this third grade reading test,” he said.

Trustee Sandra Darby reminded other board members the district has focused on early reading activity for several years, and she believes those efforts will pay off with a higher than expected passing rate, even with the higher standards.

“On a positive note we have been preparing our kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students over the last few years and I think we may not see a huge drop in passing scores,” Darby said.

Wilder noted the higher goal is a hurdle that administrators, teachers, and parents can clear with increased work the reading discipline. “It’s a high pressure situation for these students, and parents, and teachers, and sometimes for superintendents, but this is state required and we just have to do our best.”

Tim Wilder