Mississippi eighth-grade reading scores rise on U.S. test
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s eighth-grade reading scores improved on the latest Nation’s Report Card, but other scores did not change significantly, mirroring national trends.
The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress were released Tuesday. The exams, given to a cross-section of students nationwide, are considered one of the most reliable ways of comparing academic performance across the state.
Mississippi’s scores on fourth-grade reading and math tests remain in the lower quarter of states, while eighth-grade scores are among the lowest nationwide. The eighth-grade scores suggest Mississippi’s students are roughly a year behind the national average in learning.
“It’s good news for Mississippi but it’s also news that should challenge us,” said Kim Benton, Chief Academic Officer of the Mississippi Department of Education, referring to both the eighth grade improvements and the state’s overall standing.
Mississippi’s eight-grade math scores stayed level. The state’s scores in fourth-grade math and reading showed no statistically significant change from 2015. But eighth-grade students in Mississippi, eight other states and Department of Defense schools saw scores rise for reading. That was the only area nationwide where scores rose significantly.
Benton noted that Mississippi has made significant gains in both fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math since 2007.
“You need to look at trends over time,” Benton said, saying judging just the change from 2015 to 2017 may not provide enough perspective.
Like those nationwide, Mississippi students are more proficient at younger grade levels — with 27 percent clearing the proficiency bar in fourth-grade reading and 31 percent reaching proficiency in fourth-grade math. Students were less likely to be judged proficient in eighth grade, with 25 percent reaching that standard in reading and 22 percent reaching it in math. Nationwide, 33 percent to 40 percent of students nationwide were proficient on those tests.
As is true nationwide, there remains a significant gap between the scores of black and white students in Mississippi. The average black student remains at or below the basic score level in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math, while the average white Mississippi student scores in the basic range but below proficient in all categories. Mississippi’s racial achievement gaps are about average with the nation for fourth-graders. The Magnolia State has an above-average black-white achievement gap for eighth-grade reading and a below-average achievement gap for eighth-grade math.
At the national level, officials said there was increasing divergence between high-performing and low-performing students, with high-performing students gaining and low-performing students losing ground. Benton said that trend was not evident in Mississippi’s data.