Thursday, August 31, 2006
State test scores hold steady, signal need for increased rigor
The Mississippi Department of Education recently released state, district and school test score information on the state assessments administered during the 2005-2006 school year. Students in grades 2-8 took the Mississippi Curriculum Test, while high school students took the four Subject Area Tests that are required for graduation.
These tests include Algebra I, Biology I, English II, and U.S. History from 1877. This was the first senior class for which all four of the tests counted as a graduation requirement.
Similar to the 2004-05 results, the 2005-06 results on the Mississippi Curriculum Test showed a mixture of increases and decreases in performance. Generally, in grades 2 through 5 achievement held steady or increased. Especially notable was the improvement in:
“We are pleased that our scores have held steady or improved slightly considering the tremendous challenges our schools faced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, state superintendent of education. “This demonstrates the commitment that teachers, students, administrators, board members and the community had to ensuring that all students continued to learn during the year.”
There was generally less improvement in grades 6 through 8. Grade 6 reading improved to the same level as 2003-04 after a decline in 2004-05 (mean of 535.2). The percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced in grade 6 and grade 8 math improved to near the previous level after a decline in 2004-05.
There was little change in the percentage of students passing the Algebra I, Biology I, or U.S. History Subject Area Tests. There was a decline in the percentage of students passing the English II Multiple-Choice test (from 82.8 percent to 78.1 percent). There was virtually no change in the mean scale score for Biology I or U.S. History. The mean scale score for Algebra I and English II declined.
The percentage of students passing the English II Writing informative prompt improved from 91.0 percent to 93.7 percent although the mean score decreased slightly from 2.1 to 2.0. The English II Writing scores and passing percentages can fluctuate from year to year because multiple writing prompts are used, the writing prompts change for each administration, and the writing prompts cannot be statistically equated.
“We want to move our students from holding steady and making slight improvements to profound improvements,” said Dr. Bounds. “Therefore, we must increase the rigor of our curriculum and our assessment.”
The Department used a portion of the federal hurricane recovery funds to contract with a service provider to create curriculum guides in Language Arts, Reading, and Mathematics for those districts that lost their materials during Hurricane Katrina.
Available to all Mississippi teachers, but not mandated, the guides will be aligned to the Mississippi Curriculum Frameworks for language arts and mathematics and are grounded in recent, scientifically-based research on teaching and learning. The overarching goal is a responsive curriculum that will facilitate teachers in helping each student to reach his or her maximum potential.
“A rigorous curriculum program must be supported by lesson plans, instruction and assessments that are high-level,” said Dr. Bounds.
“The level of rigor in the classroom is directly correlated to the expectations of the teacher. We must have and display high expectations for all students.”
Teachers can use the Student Progress Monitoring System to track student progress in real time. Introduced by the state to support rigorous teaching and assessment by providing a bank of test items (multiple-choice, short answer, and writing prompts) that teachers, schools, and districts could use that are aligned to the curriculum frameworks, the SPMS is a web-based tool to assist with the development, administration, scoring and performance tracking of practice tests, informative assignments and assessments. The system allows educators to create practice tests, informative assignments, quizzes or homework using the question pool and to analyze student-specific performance data and generate reports.
With SPMS, teachers are able to analyze student performance on assessments down to the individual MS Framework Competency and administer diagnostic or district-created assessments to students on-line or by printing them out for paper-and-pencil administration.
Paper/pencil assignments can be scored by scanning bubble sheets into the system.
The Second Edition of the Mississippi Curriculum Test is scheduled to be field tested in May of 2007 and administered for the first time in May 2008. Administered in grades 3-8, the MCT2 will have one test for language arts, which will allow reading and language competencies to be assessed in one test and eliminate a day of testing. Grades 3-8 are the only grades required by the No Child Left Behind Act and only two states require testing in second grade.
The MCT2 will make the connection between the curriculum and assessment clearer to educators, students, parents and the public.
It will match the expectations in the assessment to the expectations of the curriculum and show progression across grades.
“The MCT2 takes our student assessments to the next level,” said Dr. Bounds. “By raising the bar for our students, we expect to see an increase in student achievement.”
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