MDE: Students make significant gains on statewide assessment

According to the Mississippi Department of Education, the results of Mississippi’s statewide assessment of learning in pre-K and kindergarten show the majority of the state’s youngest students continue to make significant gains during the academic year.

Kindergarteners take a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment in the fall and spring of each school year. In fall 2018, 36.9% of students scored kindergarten ready. When kindergarteners were retested in the spring of 2019, 65.6% of students met the end-of-year target score.

“Mississippi kindergarten teachers are continuing to do an outstanding job helping students build the foundational literacy skills they need to be successful in their education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Reading instruction must remain a major focus through the 3rd grade so that all children complete elementary school with strong reading skills.”

Every district in the state showed progress among their kindergarten classes, though student achievement varied. Average scores among schools ranged from 603 to 808. The target end-of-year score for kindergarten is 681. This score categorizes students as transitional readers. Students scoring at this level are beginning to read unfamiliar words and easy reader material but are not yet independent readers.

Progress in kindergarten remained steady from 2016-17 to 2018-19, with more than 65% of kindergarteners meeting the end-of-year target score each year.

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment evaluates skills such as the ability to recognize letters and match letters to their sounds and a student’s recognition that print flows from left to right. The exam produces reports for parents and teachers that detail each child’s early reading skills. Teacher reports also include diagnostic information and instructional plans for every student.

Pre-K students in the state’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELCs) and other public pre-K classes for 4-year-olds also maintained gains on the Pre-Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.

Among ELC students, 76.9% met the end-of-year target score, compared to 69.4% of students in other public pre-K classrooms, which include a variety of class configurations, including Title I, self-contained special education, and other school district pre-K programs.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) first recognized Mississippi for its ELC program in 2015 as one of only five states that meet all 10 of its quality standards. In subsequent years, NIEER continued to recognize Mississippi as one of only seven states that meet all or most quality standards for pre-K.

The success of the ELC program helped the MDE secure a $6 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to expand its effort to develop an early childhood education infrastructure in Mississippi. The grant supports a team of early childhood coaches who help teachers statewide in a variety of pre-K settings to implement developmentally appropriate practices in their classrooms.

“Research consistently shows that high quality early childhood education is one of the most powerful ways to make a positive difference for children throughout their education and life,” Wright said.