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Exit exam debate continues with first task force meeting

This is a photo taken by Bob Sullender. You need express written permission to use this photo which is copyrighted by TeleSouth Communications, Inc.

Task force members held their first meeting on Tuesday, June 19, to look into the issue of testing in the state’s schools. The group of legislators, educators, and high school students will examine current student testing on the state and local school district levels and are tasked with producing a report by December 2018, to recommend the best practices for monitoring student progress in meeting grade-level and subject area learning goals.

RELATED: Dr. Wright and Rep. Miles continue exit exam debate amid creation of task force

During their first meeting, members of the task force said they would create a survey and ask school various questions including the number of tests they administer and if they have enough computers and bandwidth to administer those tests.

At the start of the meeting, State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright defended testing in Mississippi schools saying that it is useful and needed. 

“Students don’t know what you don’t teach,” Wright said. The only way we can find out whether we’ve taught it well enough, or whether students mastered it  is to be able to  find a way to assess what it is they know and are able to do.”

Representative Tom Miles who has been a strong voice for putting an end to exit exams and unnecessary state testing was present at the meeting and said it’s a good start, but that the task force members now need to dig into the issue.

“A good start would be anything that we are requiring in the state of Mississippi, that is not federally mandated, to do away with those tests immediately,” Miles said. “There is no reason why we should have excess stuff that’s not required of our students that is causing all of this stress and test anxiety for our students. We need to free up the classroom and give more time to the teachers so that they can get back to teaching curriculum and not teaching to these tests so that we will have more well-rounded students when they come out of high school.” 
The task force is comprised of 30 adults along with four rising high school seniors, one from each congressional district in Mississippi. During the meeting, the students took time to express their concerns about the current testing situation in the state.
“I understand the reasoning for testing, but I have a problem with the stress that is put on teachers because they are worried about how their students are going to score,” said Ocean Springs High School Senior Sadie Smith. “It’s almost like they are teaching to the test, instead of teaching the curriculum that they are supposed to.”
The students also addressed the issue of testing disrupting their school and the stresses that it puts on themselves and their peers.

  • Members of the task force are:
    • Dr. Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education
    • Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison
    • House Education Chairman Richard Bennett
    • Buddy Bailey, Mississippi State Board of Education
    • Sean Suggs, Mississippi State Board of Education
    • Kristina Pollard, principal, Earl Travillion Attendance Center, Forest County School District
    • Rachel Canter, executive director, Mississippi First
    • Dr. Tim Martin, Clinton Public Schools
    • Dr. Amy Carter, Meridian Public Schools
    • Dr. Eddie Peasant, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District
    • Dr. Jennifer Wilson, Greenwood Public School District
    • Dr. Robyn Killebrew, 2017-18 Milken Educator, principal of Pass Christian High School
    • Dr. Howard Savage Jr., 2018 Administrator of the Year, principal of Quitman High School
    • Robert Sanders, principal, Mendenhall High School
    • Dr. Jessica Broome, 2017 Administrator of the Year, principal of Pearl Junior High School
    • Whitney Drewrey, 2018 Teacher of the Year, 3rd – 5th-grade special education teacher at Lafayette Upper Elementary School, Lafayette County School District
    • Luke Daniels, 2017 Teacher of the Year, a 6th-grade mathematics teacher at Petal Upper Elementary in the Petal School District
    • Lora Rance Evans, 2016 Parent of the Year, Greenwood Public School District
    • Kelly Riley, executive director, Mississippi Professional Educators
    • Joyce Helmick, president, Mississippi Association of Educators
    • Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie
    • Steven Hampton, research and accountability director, Lamar County Schools
    • Krystal Cormack, chair, Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board
    • Dr. Jay Smith retired Long Beach School District, superintendent
  • Student task force members:
    • Icie Cockerham – Hamilton High School
    • Jaylen Patrick – Canton, MS (Mississippi School for the Blind)
    • James Prewitt – Meridian High School
    • Sadie Smith – Ocean Springs High School
  • Ex-officio members:
    • Dr. Kim Benton, chief academic officer, MDE
    • Dr. Paula Vanderford, chief accountability officer, MDE
    • Dr. Christy Hovanetz, Foundation for Excellence in Education
    • Dr. Chris Domaleski, associate director, Center for Assessment
    • Rebecca Staples, Lieutenant Governor’s Office
    • T.J. Taylor, Speaker of the House’s Office


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