MDE: One in four kids fails 3rd grade reading test

According to a release from the Mississippi Department of Education, one out of every four students did not pass the higher bar for the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment on their first try.

The Literacy-Based Promotion Act (LBPA) requires 3rd graders to pass a reading assessment to qualify for promotion to 4th grade. An amendment to the law in 2016 raised reading-level expectations starting in the 2018-19 school year, requiring 3rd graders to score at level 3 or higher on the reading portion of the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) English Language Arts (ELA) assessment.

While 75% of students passed the higher testing requirement on the first try, the remaining 25% of students who did not pass will have two opportunities to retest before the start of the new school year.

“This year’s assessment is a new beginning because the passing score has been raised one level to move closer to measuring proficiency,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Students need strong reading skills in order to learn other school subjects, such as science, social studies, writing, and even math. I am proud of all of the students, teachers, school leaders and parents who have worked hard to help students become competent readers by the end of 3rd grade.”

In previous years, the law required 3rd graders to score above the “lowest achievement level.” Under the lower standard, the initial passing rate increased from 85% in 2015 to 93.2% in 2018.

Students scoring at level 3 or higher has also increased each year, rising from 70% in 2017, to 74% in 2018, and to 74.5% in 2019.

Level 3 indicates a student is approaching grade-level expectations. Level 4 means a student has mastered grade-level reading standards.

Statewide results for 2019 also show:

  • More than half of schools (214) met or exceeded the state’s average pass rate of 74.5%
  • 94 (23%) schools had at least 85% of students meet or exceed the passing score
  • Among all school districts, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the higher bar on the test ranged from a high of 94% to a low of 32%

The LBPA requires that students who do not pass the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment be retained in 3rd grade unless the student meets the good cause exemptions specified in the law.

Exemptions apply to certain students with disabilities, students learning English or students who have been previously retained. Local school districts determine which of their students who did not pass qualify for one of the good cause exemptions for promotion to 4th grade.

The law requires schools to provide intensive reading intervention services to students retained in the 3rd grade and to students promoted to 4th grade with a good cause exemption.

“Literacy must remain a major focus in pre-K through 3rd grade to help students build the foundational reading skills they need to be successful throughout school,” Wright said. “As we raise expectations for students, we must do all that we can to help them meet higher academic standards.”

In 3rd grade, students begin to make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If they are unsuccessful, they will have difficulty understanding grade-level reading material and are at risk of falling further behind each year.

The MDE has assigned 80 literacy coaches to 182 schools throughout the state where data shows students are struggling the most with reading. The literacy coaches will work with the teachers to help them become more effective teachers of reading.

In June, the MDE will announce which schools that applied will be awarded grants to run summer reading camps. Schools were preliminarily notified last week of their selection for the reading camp grant.