Students at Eastlawn Elementary School in Pascagoula, MS (Photo from school's Facebook page, Sept. 1, 2022)
Students in the Magnolia State excel above pre-pandemic levels according to latest testing.
On Thursday, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) announced student assessments statewide had reached record high levels, demonstrating that student achievement continues to rise in the areas of math, English Language Arts, science and United States History.
The scores are part of the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program, or MAAP, and reflect scores achieved during the 2022-2023 school year.
After suffering a decline in scores during the COVID-19 pandemic, assessment results for the past two years show improvements in those subject areas. MDE reports that in 2019, student scores demonstrating proficiency or better in math totaled 47.4 percent. The 2019 scores also showed that 41.6 percent of students were proficient or better in ELA, 55.3 percent scored that level or better in science, and 55.5 percent did so in U.S. History. Those scores dropped in 2021, down to 35.1 percent, 34.9 percent, 50.9 percent and 47 percent, respectively, when testing resumed after the pandemic.
Mississippi was not the only state to see declines; MDE reports scores dropped across the nation in 2021. No testing was conducted during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Scores reached or exceeded the 2019 levels in 2022, but in 2023, the scores showed significant increases, reaching “52.6 percent proficiency or better in mathematics, 46.7 percent in ELA, 59.4 percent in science and 71.4 percent in U.S. History,” MDE reports.
Factors attributed to the increase by MDE include implementation of education reform laws and policies, implementing higher academic standards, providing support to teachers statewide, strengthening of early education, accountability for districts and schools, and providing high school students with access to advanced learning opportunities.
Other factors include the use of post pandemic federal funds to negate the disruptions caused by sporadic school closures in 2020. Those funds provided extended learning days, tutoring and other forms of support. Investments made by the state through Mississippi Connects created a digital learning component by providing students with computers, on-demand tutoring services, and covering the cost of subscriptions for digital learning lessons. Those funds also paid for digital-based coaching for teachers, MDE states in the release.
“Mississippi has long struggled with staying on the bottom of the list when it comes to educational achievement. I’m glad to see that the work our state is doing to provide for our students and educators is continuing to pay off as evidenced by these historic gains,” said House District 106 State Representative Jansen Owen, who is a member of the House Education Committee.
“Raising teacher pay, putting more money in the classroom, and letting our teachers teach is key to keeping this momentum, and I hope to see the Legislature continue to support our students for future success,” Rep. Owen said.
Governor Tate Reeves was equally pleased with the news. A release from his office stated that the increase in assessments is one of many recent victories for Mississippi’s education system.
“This historic news is the direct result of our conservative education reforms and keeping our kids in school during the pandemic,” said Governor Reeves. “The Mississippi Miracle is real, and these new results are further proof of the continued success of our students. Thank you to all of the Mississippi teachers, parents, and students who helped make this record achievement possible.”
Other achievements Governor Reeves cited include a statewide high school graduation rate that is above the national average, gains in the areas of fourth grade reading and math, and the state being recognized as being in the top five for high-quality pre-K.
MDE’s announcement states that since 2013, Mississippi’s national Quality Counts K-12 ranking increased from 50th to 35th.