Schools are showing improvement

Published 12:08 am Friday, August 5, 2011

As summer nears its end, students and teachers across the state are gearing up for another exciting school year. Parents and children are gathering school supplies, teachers are preparing their lesson plans, and administrators are working hard to make sure that everything is ready for the new school year.

Many students and educators will be greeted with the good news of improvements in preliminary state test scores as they return to school. For the first time, Mississippi has more 50 percent of its students in grades 3 through 8 scoring in the proficient or advanced categories in language arts on the MCT2. Promising gains were also made in math scores in grade 3 and grade 8, indicating that our state is headed in the right direction.

These improvements show that Mississippi’s commitment to improving literacy and math skills, along with our emphasis on more rigorous standards, are having positive effects.

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High school students also saw progress in test scores. The Algebra I test resulted in a 5.8 percent passing increase, from 79.6 percent the previous year to 85.4 percent passing this year. The English II test resulted in a 3.8 percent increase from a 68 percent passing rate in the previous school year to a 71.8 percent passing rate this year. The U.S. History test resulted in a 93 percent passing rate — achieving the same results as last year.

These results indicate that the students of Mississippi will rise to our level of expectation. We must continue to expect more from our children and give them the tools they need to be successful.

It is our goal to continue to improve in all areas of testing. Our current achievements are promising, thanks to all of the dedicated administrators and teachers of Mississippi. We must continue our momentum and commitment. Our students deserve to have a world class education system that provides them with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to be successful in our global society.

In September, the Mississippi Department of Education will announce the performance classifications for schools and districts based on the State Accountability Model. Schools and districts will be classified from highest to lowest: Star, High Performing, Successful, Academic Watch, Low Performing, At-Risk of Failing and Failing.

Last school year, we celebrated three Star districts and 54 Star schools attaining the highest performance classification level.

I am certain that this school year those numbers will continue to increase and more schools and districts will be awarded Star status.

Best wishes to all of our students, parents and educators for a great 2011-2012 school year.

Charles McClelland is the chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education.