Gains in Student Achievement Follow Better Funding and Increased Rigor

It is true that Mississippi’s student achievement lags that of other states, and much work remains to be done to ensure that our children and our state reach their potential. It is not true, however, that Mississippi schools have not improved in recent years. In fact, Mississippi schools have led the nation in improvement in reading on national measures. These improvements have corresponded with increases in education funding and improved classroom rigor and accountability.

National Achievement Measures

Following significant increases in K-12 funding and an increase in classroom rigor and accountability, Mississippi’s student achievement improved considerably. Mississippi has finally begun our ascent up the ladder of success.

Not only have school districts improved their average scores on state assessments, our students’ national test scores have improved, as well.

  • Mississippi children showed a greater percentage point increase than students in any other state in the country in 4th grade reading scores from 2007 to 2009 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
  • From 2005 to 2009, Mississippi’s percent of fourth-graders reading at the Basic level or above grew eight times faster than it did from 1998 to 2005
  • Since 2005, Mississippi’s gains in fourth grade reading scores have been 75% higher than the national gains Read more.

That progress is now at risk as resources have been diminished, class size has grown significantly, and teachers are stretched beyond reasonable limits. As school budgets have been cut, our improvement on national assessments has flattened, as it has nationwide in the wake of declining budgets. NAEP is administered every 2 years.

State Achievement Measures

Following implementation of a more rigorous curriculum in 2008, a new accountability system in 2009, and increased resources, Mississippi has seen significant improvement in achievement.

  • Since the new accountability model was implemented in 2009, the number of “F” rated schools and districts has been cut in half (from 53 “F” districts in 2009 to 20 “F” districts in 2012, and from 217 “F” schools in 2009 to 107 “F” schools in 2012
  • Of 68 schools receiving additional resources and on-site services from MDE through Conservatorship, Schools-at-Risk, and School Improvement Grant (SIG) programs, 57 improved student achievement, with most of those schools attaining double digit gains in QDI from 2011 to 2012
  • The average QDI increase for these schools from 2011 to 2012 was 15 points

ACT Scores Steady Despite Adding Lower-achieving Students

ACT reports that the number of Mississippi students taking the ACT has increased in the last 15 years by over 40%. Fifteen years ago, only college-bound, higher performing students took the ACT. Today, ACT reports that almost 100% of Mississippi students take the college entry test. In the top performing states, less than 30% of students take the ACT, typically the top, college-bound students. Mississippi’s ACT scores have remained consistent, despite the addition of lower-performing students, indicating significant improvement overall in achievement among Mississippi students.

The 2012 national average ACT score is 21.1 with an average student participation rate of 49%. ACT reports that 100% of Mississippi high school seniors took the test in 2012, with an average score of 18.7. Because Mississippi’s scores include virtually all students, compared to only 49% of students nationwide, the ACT does not provide an apples-to-apples comparison of student achievement.

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