90 percent of Vicksburg Warren third graders pass reading test

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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

Vicksburg Warren School District’s third-graders had a 90 percent pass rate compared to the statewide 92 percent pass.

Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act requires that a student scoring at the lowest achievement level on the Third Grade Reading Summative Assessment be retained in third grade, unless the student meets one of the good cause exemptions specified in the law. The 2014-2015 year was the first year that a reading test was required for third-graders to be promoted to fourth grade.

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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 (MKAS) held in April.

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said the scores have significantly improved, with exemptions taken out, the school district had 96 percent of third-graders pass and 4 percent fail.

“Our school district was at 18 percent (fail rate), and after the second retest we were at 5 percent (fail rate),” he said. “I am very proud of our efforts to decrease the initial number of students that were slated to be retained.”

The new 4 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.”

Despite the progress, Shealy said the he wants no children to be retained next year.

“We have implemented intensive interventions and camps as a part of last year’s efforts,” he said. “Moving forward, we have challenged our elementary principals to create the innovative strategies throughout the school year for all kindergarten through third-grade classes to ensure literacy at all grade levels.”

This marks the first time students have been retained for not passing the third-grade reading test by law, which was 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.

Professionals in the field of education have said research does not support those claims. Shealy quoted John Hattie’s “Visible Learning,” which states retention is one of just five student interventions out of 800 meta-analysis studies that has been 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.