Northeast Mississippi received a valuable look last week at how well our students are performing in the classroom, including certain areas for improvement, with the release of test results from last school year.

Each year, the Mississippi Department of Education releases test results from schools and districts across the state on the “state test” students take the year prior. The 2018-19 test results show student achievement has reached an all-time high performance in English and math in grades 3-8, as well as English II and Algebra for middle and high school students.

The Booneville School District ranked in the top 10 statewide for student proficiency in all four tested subjects. School districts ranking in the top 10 statewide for student proficiency in both ELA and mathematics were Booneville, Oxford and Union County. Included in the top 10 in ELA were the Union County School District, Oxford School District and Booneville School District. Those ranking in the top 10 in math were Oxford School District, Union County School District, Booneville School District, Union Public School District and Lafayette County School District.

When the test was first administered in 2015-16, one-third of students met or exceeded grade-level expectations in English Language Arts and mathematics. In 2018-19, closer to half of students met or exceeded expectations in each subject. ELA achievement has increased from 33.6% to 41.6% of students scoring proficient or advanced. Students scoring proficient or advanced in mathematics has jumped from 33.0% to 47.3%.

“Mississippi students are outpacing the nation in learning gains thanks to their hard work and the hard work of teachers, school staff, school leaders, and parents,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Education in Mississippi is part of our state’s success story.”

“Statewide assessments ensure that children in every school are achieving the learning goals for each grade level,” she continued. “When students score proficient or advanced, parents can be assured their child’s school is providing a quality education that has prepared students to be successful in the next grade.”

A one-year comparison of results, from 2017-18 to 2018-19, showed students made significant gains in 12 out of 14 subjects and grades. Mississippi’s plan for improving student achievement calls for at least 70% of all students to be proficient in ELA and mathematics by 2025.

The test scores will play a role in determining school district accountability scores, which combine a number of factors into an A-F rating. The department plans to release those scores in mid-September.

Our region has historically placed public education as a top priority for community and economic development. We’ve benefitted from visionary leaders who understood good public schools are a key part in creating growth in our communities throughout the region. A good education can open many doors for students, whether through advanced degrees at an institution of higher education or by going straight into the workforce.

These recent test results demonstrate the need to continue placing a high emphasis on our students going forward to ensure that these successes continue in the districts that performed well and that improvements can be made in other districts.

As leaders on the state level continue to implement changes to help improve public education, we as a community must do our part to ensure students and teachers have every opportunity to succeed.

As long as communities are willing to come together and invest in education, the future will be bright for Mississippi students.

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