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Mississippi schools saw increases in proficiency rates on state tests in math and reading for students in grades 3-8 over the course of six school years, with “significant decreases” in achievement gaps between racial/ethnic and economic subgroups, according to a new report.

The report by a federal education evaluation agency looked at school-level test score data for Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina to dig into reading and math proficiency trends.  The data, which looked at school-level achievement trends instead of following the same cohorts of students, found the school-level percentage of students who scored proficient in reading and math increased in those three states during either a four- or six-year period. (Each state has different proficiency standards so the results were not compared across states). The report found the following “statistically significant increases” in achievement on state exams in Mississippi:

  • In the 2007-08 school year, the average school-level student reading proficiency rate was about 44 percent. By the 2012-13 school year, this proficiency rate had increased more than 10 percentage points.
  • The school-level math proficiency rate increased by 13 percentage points from 2007-08 to 2012-13.
  • Schools saw the largest average increase in reading proficiency growth rates in grade 7, and math proficiency growth rates in grade 8.
  • School-level proficiency growth rates for black students and for students eligible for the school lunch program, a measure of poverty, increased in math and reading for every grade between the years studied.
  • All grades had decreases in the achievement gap between white and black students in math and reading. However, the report found that the estimated student achievement gap in 2012-13 still “ranged from 11 percentage points to 18 percentage points in reading and math.” Similarly, the achievement gap between students who were and who were not eligible for the school lunch program decreased, but a 13- to 20-percentage-point difference in proficiency remained in reading and math by the 2012-13 school year.

The report did not examine potential reasons for these trends, but did provide some reminders about the various ways a decrease in achievement gap occurs. That includes if the majority subgroup, white students, for example, remains stable while the minority subgroup, black students in this case, increases. A shrinking achievement gap could also occur if the minority subgroup shows a faster rate of increase than the majority subgroup. The latter is what occurred in Mississippi during the period studied, according to the report, which was issued by the federal Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

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