Third-grade passage rate increases after retesting

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The results of the second round of a new, 50-question computerized test in Mississippi, grading the reading abilities of the state’s third-graders, have been released

Nearly 15 percent of Mississippi third-graders and 18 percent of Vicksburg third-graders failed the first round of testing of the third-grade reading assessment held in April, called MKAS.

Those numbers have improved significantly Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said.

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“Our school district was at 18 percent, and after the second retest we are at 5 percent,” he said. “The state average is 9 percent, and we are 4 percent better than the state now.”

While the numbers both statewide and locally might seem like a lot, the final figures are still not in and reports show work to improve the reading abilities of third-graders is working.

There will be one final retake in August, Shealy said.

“We’ve had some literacy camps throughout the summer that our students who failed the test were able to participate in,” he said. “We hope to decrease that number even further.”

Some students can be promoted even if they don’t pass. Those include students learning English for less than two years, students with significant cognitive disabilities, special education students who have had two or more years of intervention and already failed once, or any students with two or more years of intervention who have failed twice.

The new 5 percent figure is a drastic improvement to the initial prediction.

“At the beginning of the year we had 52 percent of our kids that were reading below that 40th percentile,” he said. “Considering we started with 52 percent, I am incredibly proud of the work of the teachers,” he said.

To increase the passage rate, free reading camps were offered and books were sent home with students, in addition to other measures.

Shealy said the goal is to get the students reading on grade level, and the state department is backing their implementation of a transition class.

This marks the first time the requirement to pass the test, enacted in 2013.

Lawmakers and Gov. Phil Bryant have said it is preferable to hold back students who cannot read at a basic level to give them special attention. Some researchers disagree with that approach, though, saying failing a grade leads to higher dropout rates and the harm outweighs the benefit.

Shealy quoted John Hattie’s “Visible Learning,” which states retention is just one of five student interventions out of 800 meta-analysis studies that have shown to have a negative impact on students.

“What we’re trying to do is take the legislation that’s been written and move our kids forward,” he said.

The total number of students held back will not be clear until August.