Some Mississippi state officials calling for changes to end-of-year assessments amid COVID pandemic

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Miss. — Going into this Spring semester, Mississippi plans on taking the usual mandated assessments, but some state officials are calling for a “year of grace” as students continue to battle COVID-related issues.

In Mississippi, end-of-year assessments carry a heavy weight. They determine if a student graduates from high school or passes third grade. For now, the assessments are still scheduled as normal.

“We need to get a lay of the land. The federal law requires a state-wide assessment and the federal law also requires accountability,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

But COVID-19 has thrown a major wrench into the process. For starters, the state is unsure how it will even issue enough tests to meet the federally required 95% threshold.

“There’s no way that we’re going to come up with 95% of our kids being tested, because we don’t have the ability right now to test remotely,” Wright said.

And that doesn’t even cover learning loss. In 2019, the last pre-COVID school year, more than 8% of Mississippi students failed the required third-grade assessment.

That meant more than 3,000 children did not get promoted to fourth grade. And academic success has been even harder to come by during the pandemic.

“I do believe this needs to be a year of grace for our schools and for our teachers and for our children. There’s a lot of pressure around this assessment,” Wright said.

Mississippi government hasn’t announced plans to change end-of-year testing. For that to happen, the state legislature or Governor Tate Reeves would have to waive previous requirements.

Reeves hasn’t addressed the issue yet but has expressed a willingness to listen to educators.

“Whenever possible, I will allow local school years to determine the best plan for their local schools. Those closest to the classroom will be best equipped to make those decisions,” Reeves said.

In normal years, Mississippi students are able to take the assessments numerous times, into the summer months. We’ll continue to update this story if and when the state announces new information.

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