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Despite big gains, Mississippi students still lag behind nation on standardized tests

IMPROVED: Mississippi students made big improvements on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test. Photo illustration by Steve Wilson

Mississippi fourth and eighth grade students have made big improvements in the last 12 years on a key standardized test that measures academic performance, but they still lag behind the national average.

The Magnolia State was one of the nation's leaders in score improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test — also known as the Nation's Report Card — in fourth-grade reading between 2005 and 2017. Mississippi fourth graders improved their reading score by 11 points in 2017 from 2016.

The state's fourth and eighth graders improved their NAEP mathematics scores by eight points apiece, while eight graders improved six points from their performance in 2016.

Even with the big gains, the state is struggling overall, as only 31 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded the mathematics standard in 2017 and only 23 percent do so for science. Only 27 percent of state fourth graders are considered proficient or better in reading.

Nationally, 40 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded the math standard while 38 percent made or exceeded the grade on science. Only 37 percent of fourth graders nationally are considered proficient or better at reading.

Magnolia State students are making strides, as only 21 percent of fourth-graders in 2013 made or exceeded the grade on the NAEP reading assessment.

The picture gets even worse when the students are tested again in eighth grade. Only 22 percent of eighth graders meet or exceed the standard for mathematics and only 20 percent do so for science in 2017. Only one quarter of Mississippi eighth graders make or exceed the grade for reading.

The national average of eighth graders considered proficient or better in mathematics is 34 percent, the same percentage that were considered at least proficient or better on the science assessment. Thirty six percent of all eighth graders nationally met or exceeded the standard for reading.

The picture doesn't get better once students get to high school. On the ACT test, Mississippi students were ranked third from the bottom among the 20 states where 100 percent of all high school students take the test.

Magnolia State students scored an average composite of 18.6 on a scale from one to 36. This was the same score as last year and up slightly (18.4) from 2016, but down from a score of 19 in 2015.

The ACT test is designed to assess the academic performance and college readiness of high school students using four benchmarks (English, mathematics, reading and science)..

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