Study Says Mississippi's Proficiency Bar is Set Above Grade Level

Posted 8/16/16

Get this: if your third grader is reading at a seventh-grade level, Mississippi does not consider her to be "advanced." She won't hit the advanced mark unless she reads at the nationally-normed 8.1 grade level, according to the cut scores set for Mississippi's 2015 state test.

To be considered proficient, your third grader had to perform at the reading level expected of an end-of-year fourth grader. That was the finding of a study conducted by Renaissance Learning, Inc., national experts in reading and math benchmarking and assessment. A separate study* indicates that, in some grades, the cut scores for proficiency required students to have mastered skills taught at least two grade levels up.

In other words, a student who has mastered what our state standards require at a given grade level is not considered proficient on Mississippi's accountability rating system. Your child's school is rated accordingly.

Psychometricians at Renaissance Learning tell us that only 31 percent of students nationwide would likely be considered proficient in third-grade reading according to Mississippi's 2015 standards and accountability system.

The 2015 cut scores were set by the PARCC consortium, and Mississippi students no longer take the PARCC assessment. But state superintendent Dr. Carey Wright has said that the proficiency cut scores for 2016 ratings are set at a level similar to those for 2015. If so, our students are still being asked to perform well above grade level to be considered proficient.

How can we weigh in?

The Mississippi Board of Education will meet this Thursday to review and vote on adoption of school districts' 2016 test scores and proficiency rates, based on these cut scores. You can find contact information for board members here.

We applaud the rigorous standards set for Mississippi students and teachers in the College and Career Readiness Standards. We also believe assessments should measure what the standards require and that proficiency cut scores should acknowledge students' mastery of grade-level content and skills. Tests and proficiency measures should be reasonable and fair.

Thank you for your unending support of Mississippi public school students and teachers!

*This Renaissance Learning study identifies the STAR reading and math cut scores that align with the requirements of the Common Core State Standards at each grade level. The Common Core State Standards are nearly identical to Mississippi's College and Career Readiness Standards.