PEER committee finds grade inflation, retention issues in some Mississippi schools

Published 11:39 am Friday, November 24, 2023

By Steve Wilson

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade often have their grades inflated and are not retaining mastery of core subjects, a Mississippi legislative committee says.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, better known as the PEER Committee, released the report this week.

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PEER contracted with GlimpseK12, an education technology company based in Huntsville, Alabama, to comparatively review 30 public school districts on instruction in fiscal 2022.

The committee defines grade inflation as students receiving high grades (A’s and B’s) but not scoring as proficient on annual state tests known as the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program.

Lawmakers found that one-third of the scores in third through eighth grades found grade inflation in math and English language arts, with students in eighth grade language arts having the highest inflation at 40%. The report says, while some grade inflation is expected, districts with greater than 25% inflation in a grade level should reevaluate their grading policies.

Some of the worst grade inflation by districts included Noxubee County (88% for third grade math, 74% for fourth grade math, 65% for third grade language arts, 69% for fourth grade language arts, 76% for sixth grade language arts and 74% for eighth grade language arts). Another was Natchez-Adams (79% grade inflation in eighth grade math), Holmes (78% for seventh grade math), Greenville (74% for sixth grade math) and Wilkinson (89% for fifth grade math).

The report defines mastery decline as when a student scores lower on the year-end exam compared to one taken at the beginning of the school year, even if it is by one point. The committee said one-third of students had mastery decline in both math and language arts, with eighth graders exhibiting the greatest decline at 52%.

The report also found that one-fifth of students within 3% of the proficiency threshold in math and one-sixth did so in language arts.

The report also found that districts often aren’t implementing educational plans properly to ensure mastery of key subjects. Of the 30 districts surveyed, only 19% in math and 21% in language arts had 75% of their students meet the threshold of implementation fidelity threshold, which is a measure of how well an educational program is implemented as reflected by test scores and other metrics.

PEER recommends that districts institute an internal review process to identify, track, and manage grade inflation. The committee also recommends that districts use software and other tools to track mastery decline to provide targeted help to struggling students.