/Could one of Mississippi’s bemoaned state tests soon be history

Could one of Mississippi’s bemoaned state tests soon be history

Mississippi News is a non-profit organization. The Mississippi Department of Education has been hearing complaints about the impact testing has on teachers and students. This could have a ripple effect on federal and state laws. Monday morning, Clinton Public Schools Superintendent Tim Martin presented to the Commission on School Accreditation the recommendation of the student testing task group to remove the U.S History exam, which high school students must pass to graduate. The department polled over 3,100 high school teachers earlier this summer to determine if Mississippi should continue with the U.S. History end of-course assessment. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents said no. When broken down by teacher type, most said no. There are 14 assessments that students in grades K-12 must take. These are mandated by state, federal, or state board education policy. State and federal law require end-of-course assessments for Biology, English II, and Algebra I. Board policy only requires U.S. History. Students who fail these tests can still meet graduation requirements. Because the U.S. History test is the only one that high school students must take, it was chosen by the task force. This is a test that is not subject to state board policy. Federal approval would not be required in order to eliminate the test. The elimination of the test does NOT mean that teachers will cease teaching U.S. History at schools. John Paul Mistilis, a U.S History teacher at Oxford High School and a member the Commission on School Accreditation. He told members via phone that he had voted against the poll but that he and other U.S History teachers are concerned about the elimination of the exam. Mistilis stated that “we feel it’s an open-ended sword.” We feel that social studies is only significant because it is being tested. Our theory is that if it goes away, then social studies’ importance will eventually disappear.” Tom Miles (D-Forest), is one of the most vocal advocates for eliminating end-of course assessments. He said Monday that he was grateful the department was considering eliminating the exam. Miles said that he was proud to see the Mississippi Department of Education admit and accept that there is a testing problem in Mississippi. Miles has filed numerous bills in previous legislative sessions to replace end-of-course assessments with the ACT exam. He argued that these exams prevent teachers from teaching and create barriers for students to graduate. Miles stated that students shouldn’t be able to decide if they receive a diploma or not by one test. “If we don’t allow our children to get a diploma after 12 years of success, then we’re setting them up in failure in the future,” Roy Gill, a member of the commission, warned about the unintended consequences. Gill, the superintendent of Harrison County Schools District, said that while he is fine with reducing the number and frequency of assessments, he also believes it is important to recognize the impact on schools today. The accountability model in Mississippi assigns an A to F rating to schools and districts based on student performance on the U.S. History exam. The model and scoring system for districts would have to be changed if the test is eliminated. This change would also impact the Every Student Succeeds Act-required federal education plan for Mississippi. The accountability model for Mississippi is part of this plan. If the test were to be removed, the state would need to submit its plan again to the federal government. The task force’s recommendation of eliminating the test was unanimously approved by the commission. This means that the issue will now be referred to the state board for education at its September meeting. If the board accepts this recommendation, it will go through a public comment period before being returned to the board for final approval. It would be effective in 2020-21 school year if it is approved._x000D