The state of Mississippi has shown increased scores in all grades and subject areas in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2019.
The NAEP tests students’ knowledge in various subjects, such as math and reading, and has the moniker of the “Nation’s Report Card.” It is administered to a representative sample of students across the country and has been providing information about how students perform academically nationally since 1969.
Mississippi has shown advancement since 2007 and has become a leader in NAEP improvement. Between 2005 and 2019, Mississippi increased its scores in all grades and subject areas of the national exam.
In the 2019 NAEP results, Mississippi was the only state to see improvement in three of the four tested subjects: fourth grade reading and math, as well as eighth grade math. The results mark the first time Mississippi has met or outperformed national averages.
This year, Mississippi tied the national average in fourth grade reading and exceeded the average in fourth grade math by one point. The state still falls behind the national average in eighth grade reading and math. Nationally, scores for most NAEP subjects dropped or held steady from 2017 to 2019.
The test is scored on a scale ranging from 1 to 500 points. The Nation’s Report Card reported that in 2019, the average score of fourth grade students in Mississippi was 219, up four points from 2017. The percentage of fourth grade students who performed at or above the NAEP’s proficiency level in reading was 32%. Sixty-five percent percent performed at or above the NAEP’s basic level.
Statistics also reflect that the learning gap among racial groups is shrinking; Mississippi’s African American and Hispanic students outperformed their peers nationally in fourth grade reading and math.
Fourth grade African American students had an average reading score that was 21 points lower than that for white students. In 1998, the performance gap was 26 points.
Students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program had an average score that was 24 points lower than that for students who were not eligible.
The National Assessment Governing Board reported several key strategies that led to Mississippi’s success – Mississippi has created new, more rigorous academic standards that are better aligned to national expectations for students.
The state began administering a new state assessment, the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP), during the 2015-2016 school year that was based on the NAEP test to ensure that students are learning the subjects expected to be covered on the exam.
Students first take the MAAP in the third grade and continue throughout high school. The MAAP tests proficiency in English language arts and mathematics; students in fifth and eighth grade are also tested in science, biology and U.S. history and assesses students’ proficiency and/or advanced level of knowledge in each subject.
Mississippi has also started to put more focus on literacy in schools. In 2013, the state passed the Literacy-Based Promotion Act that increased expectations for teachers and students in the classroom.
Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, students who score at the lowest achievement level in reading are not promoted to fourth grade, unless the student qualifies for a good cause exemption.
“The Literacy-Based Promotion Act places an emphasis on grade-level reading skills, particularly as students’ progress through grades K-3,” said the Mississippi Department of Education in a press release. “In an effort to support schools in their literacy efforts, the MDE has deployed educators with expertise in literacy to a number of support schools across Mississippi.”