Pandemic impacts students' test scores
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) recently released statewide results from the 2020-21 Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP), which provide the first statewide measure of student performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time since MAAP tests were first administered in 2016, student proficiency decreased in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Students were last tested in 2019 and reached an all-time high for proficiency in mathematics and ELA.
Statewide proficiency levels fell in all grades except grade 8 ELA, which increased 0.1% (35.6%) since 2019 (35.5%).
MAAP measures students’ progress toward academic goals that equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and the workforce. Mississippi teachers helped develop MAAP tests, which align with the learning goals for Mississippi classrooms. MAAP measures student performance in ELA and mathematics in grades 3-8 and in high school English II and Algebra I.
“The disruption and stress caused by COVID-19 has had an impact on student performance in every state in the country and the impact has been more marked in mathematics than in English Language Arts,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I am proud of the way Mississippi students, families, teachers and school leaders persevered through the most challenging school year of their lives.”
Students had their school year cut short in spring 2020 when the pandemic shut down school buildings in Mississippi and the United States. Though most Mississippi students had access to in-person learning most of the 2020-21 school year, hybrid learning, quarantining and numerous weather-related school building closures created obstacles to teaching and learning.
The MDE provided districts pandemic-related flexibilities to administer the assessments. Schools provided safe testing environments to all students including full-time virtual learners who took assessments at schools. The overall participation rate for assessments was 96.9%, close to the 98%-99% rates of previous years.
Due to COVID disruptions, grade 3 students were not required to meet a passing score on the reading assessment to be promoted to grade 4. Students still had to meet all other district requirements for promotion. Students who took required end-of-course high school assessments including Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History were not required to meet a passing score.
“This year’s statewide assessments provide valuable information about the impact of the pandemic on learning and will help identify where accelerated learning opportunities for students are most needed,” Wright said.
Though overall statewide proficiency levels dropped, proficiency levels did not drop in every grade, subject and school. Notably, Ocean Springs School District improved its districtwide ELA proficiency level since 2019.
“For our students to show continued growth and improved proficiency during such a difficult time in their lives is such an outstanding accomplishment,” said Dr. Bonita Coleman, superintendent of Ocean Spring School District (OSSD). “Continuing the learning path for all of our students and ensuring no student’s learning is negatively impacted during this unprecedented time has been of the utmost priority for OSSD. We are thankful for all of our dedicated educators and students who helped ensure a worldwide pandemic did not stand in the way of our continued progress.”
Pre-pandemic, statewide student proficiency rates increased every year since MAAP tests were first administered. By 2019, Mississippi had become a national leader in education because students were making faster progress than nearly every other state. Several factors contributed to the steady rise in student achievement including the implementation of higher academic standards and statewide support to teachers to help students reach higher standards. The effective implementation of several education reform laws and policies that developed or strengthened early childhood education, literacy instruction, school and district accountability, and advanced learning opportunities for high school students.
“This year establishes a new baseline for statewide assessments,” Wright said. “As the world moves to recover from the pandemic, I am confident Mississippi students will progress just as rapidly as they did before.”