By STEVEN NALLEY
The Mississippi Department of Education has released data showing percentages of students who earned proficient or advanced scores on the Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition (MCT2), showing minor but consistent growth across all grades tested in the Starkville School District.
SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said he is glad to see gains, and he is grateful for principals and teachers who worked hard to make the gains happen. However, he said wants to see more growth, and he wants to see that growth accelerate.
“It’s a long way away from where I want to be,” Holloway said. “There’s a pretty good gap between our top-performing students and our bottom-performing students.”
Holloway said he believes teachers need more precise data from their preparatory tests to identify students’ weaknesses, address those weaknesses and raise scores.
“That’s why the district is moving to the MAP assessment, which in my opinion is a far better testing instrument that’s given online,” Holloway said. “You get your test results back in 48 hours. The students get their tests back in seconds, and it’s just going to provide the teachers and parents a wealth of information on what they need to be learning to make a year’s progress.”
The MCT2 is given at the end of each academic year to students in grades 3-8 in language arts and mathematics. It designates students’ scores, from lowest to highest, as “minimal,” “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced.”
SSD Public Information Officer Nicole Thomas said the district’s highest scores were in the third, fourth and fifth grades. Thomas said the state measures growth by measuring a single class’s changes as it passes through multiple grades.
Thomas said every class had more students scoring proficient and above in language arts in 2012 than in 2011, and growth shows in math in all but two classes — grades 4 and 6, down two and three percentage points respectively. Math results for fifth and seventh grade students from 2012 show the largest growth, with each gaining nine percentage points.
Little deviation from the median was evident among 2012 percentages. The highest percentage across all grades and subjects was 67 percent for third grade math, and the lowest was 48 percent for seventh grade language arts.
Thomas said she agrees with Holloway that the MAP’s more precise, immediate feedback can help students improve. The MCT scores alone are not enough, she said.
“It can be disappointing when you get your child’s MCT results, and it’s just a score, and you don’t know how to help,” Thomas said. “With MAP, you can.”
Holloway said the MCT2 is due for replacement in 2015 with a new online assessment under development which will be more analogous to the MAP. Changes are constant at the federal and state level in education, Holloway said, but he believes the MAP will be a constant.
“Quite frankly, the MAP is a much higher-standard test than (the MCT2) is, and we know the content on it, and it’s very closely in line with the core standards we’ve signed on with,” Holloway said.
In the meantime, Julie Fancher, SSD test coordinator, said in a press release that SSD faculty are already busy using MCT2 data to adjust their teaching strategies.
“Upon receipt of the assessment data, schools immediately began the process of analyzing data to determine the areas that need growth and improvement,” Fancher said in the release. “Our principals, teachers, and students work very hard, and we know that. We have already established a plan of action.”
In the same press release, Thomas said the SSD has also met state growth requirements at all schools except Armstrong and improved its graduation rate, even though the state does not use the latter to determine state accountability levels.
(The) SSD’s graduation rate improved to 71.8 percent, compared to 68.4 percent last year,” Thomas said. “The graduation rate has improved almost 12 percent in two years.”