Test scores a mixed bag for schools

Staff Writer

In the test- and numbers-driven world of education, West Point and Clay County schools have some areas they can crow about from the latest Mississippi Academic Assessment Program scores from tests students took last spring.

On the other hand, there's always room for improvement.

Statewide, students showed improvement in every grade and subject area, with more students scoring in the top three proficiency levels and fewer scoring in levels one and two.

Education advocates say perhaps the best news is school districts that were rated F in 2017 showed considerable improvement. Every traditional public school district that was rated F last year increased the percent of students who scored proficient and advanced.

Overall, in English/Language Arts, 40 school districts had more than 45 percent of their students score proficient or advanced - compared to just 22 districts in 2017 and 14 districts in 2016.

Likewise, in math, 52 school districts had more than 45 percent of their students score proficient or advanced in mathematics - compared to just 32 districts in 2017 and 15 in 2016.

The only broad negative statewide was fewer students met the new, higher proficiency benchmark for the English II exam. The score required for a student to be considered proficient in English II was raised by seven points for the 2017-2018 test, a significant change that could have an impact on some high school's accountability ratings.

West Point is among those that took a hit from the change, although the hit was mixed. For instance, statewide, 31.7 percent of high schoolers scored proficient on the English test while that number was 33.2 percent at West Point High. But a smaller percentage of West Point students scored at Level 4 than the state average -- 19.6 percent to 29.8 percent and at Level 5 4.7 percent to 14.7 percent.

A higher percentage of West Point students scored at the lower two levels compared to the state and some scores suggest the big jump in the minimum score contributed to that difference.

The district did well against the state averages in several categories such as fourth grade language arts. South Side Elementary in particular was below the state average in the two lowest levels and well above the state average in students scoring proficient and and the next level and was only slight below the state average in percent of students scoring in the highest level.

Seventh-grade language arts also stacked up well against the state with the percentage of students scoring in he lowest two levels well below the state averages the number scoring proficient or above topped the state percentages.

The district also stacked up well in fourth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade math scores in terms of percentages of students scoring in the top three proficiency categories. In algebra 1, the district also did well, scoring higher than the state percentages at Levels 3 and 4. The numbers particularly were impressive among the 23 eighth-graders at Fifth Street School who took the test. Of those, 20 scored Level 4 and the remaining three scored at Level 5.

Some other areas continue to pose problems for the district against gains across the state. Sixth-grade language arts is one example as the local district had higher percentages scoring in the lowest two levels and fewer in the upper two levels although the local percentage scoring basic proficiency was slightly higher than the state.

While comparing to statewide numbers is one way to look at the scores, another is the gain one class makes from year-to-year. Those gains are critical to a school and district accountability ratings, which will be released later this year. Like the comparison to state numbers, the gains also had some bright spots.

For instance, third-graders who took the language arts tst did much better this year as fourth-graders, showing improvement from level to level.

Sixth-graders who took language arts in 2017 showed more mixed results this year taking the test as seventh-graders with fewer scoring at the lowest levels and more scoring in the basic proficiency category but fewer reaching the top two levels.

But eighth-graders last spring improved significantly from their seventh-grade year in language arts and seventh-graders who took the math test last spring showed big gains from their sixth-grader year.