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Mississippi leaders debate statewide testing

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While Mississippi students are required to take yearly state tests, some leaders are for them, and others think we should do away with them.

State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Carey Wright, believes that all state testing and ACT testing should remain the same.

“I stand firm that our statewide assessment is an outstanding assessment and a valid reliable assessment,” said Dr. Wright. “Its gone through all of the measures and it aligns to our standards.”

She stated that Mississippi has continued to make progress every year and that our children are reaching proficiency and beyond.

“We administer the ACT as part of our accountability model to all 11th graders, and I think we should continue with what we’re doing,” said Dr. Wright. “I think to upend it would be a mistake and I think the recognition and the national recognition that Mississippi is getting for its educational progress is due to the hard work of our teachers, who are out there teaching to our standards.”

She said they’ve aligned their standards to both secondary requirements so that children can be guaranteed if they learn what the teachers are teaching, that they can be admitted to either our community colleges or our institutes of higher learning.

State Representative Tom Miles said we need to do whatever makes it easiest to limit the testing burdens for our students.

“When you talk to parents, teachers and administrators, they want to go in the direction of the ACT,” said Miles. “They understand that we have to have federal requirements, but at the end of the day, the question is, ‘Can it be done?'”

He added that it can be done, but said here in Mississippi, we are choosing not to do it.

“Other states are moving in that direction. It makes common sense to do this, it’s pro-students and it’s even pro-business with the ACT work keys, so it hits all of those things,” said Miles. “At the end of the day, if a student were to make a perfect score on all four of the state tests that we’re requiring them to do, that doesn’t accomplish them getting into college or any kind of money. They don’t get anything, it’s nothing.”

Miles said if a student fails all four state tests, but they were to make a 32 on the ACT, they still can’t graduate high school. He then asked what the student would get for college.

“They would get a full paid scholarship off of the 32, but because we have these mandated requirements, we’re using that as a graduation requirement that’s holding our students back,” said Miles. “The federal law says that we have to test in those three subject areas, which are math, english and science, but it doesn’t say that they have to pass them for graduation requirements.”

He said they have to test to measure what they’re doing.

“It’s not a federal requirement that they pass that, and that’s the problem that we have,” said Miles. “That’s what we’re wanting to do, and if we do this, we can move towards the ACT to make it simpler because it will save time and money, and it’s something that everyone recognizes, especially our colleges, when our students prepare to go to college because they can get scholarships.”

Miles explained that if you look at students in the private schools, they’re focusing all on the ACT.

“Our ACT scores have fallen off over the last few years because all we’re doing is focusing on state tests that don’t mean anything going towards graduation and preparing for college and career readiness,” said Miles.

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