The Mississippi State Board of Education updated its policies regarding passing requirements and test scores for third grade and high school this school year.
In response to setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, the board suspended three policies statewide for the 2020-21 school year.
In the past, third graders were required to pass a literacy test in order to continue to the next year. Though all third graders will still take the test this year, passing the test will not be required to advance to fourth grade.
In high school, students are usually required to pass tests in algebra I, English II, biology and U.S. history. Those tests will still be taken, but students will not be penalized if they don’t pass.
According to State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, the tests will still be administered in order to measure how the pandemic has impacted education throughout the state. These tests are required by the U.S. Board of Education, as well.
Along with suspending passing requirements, the state education board also voted to allow school districts to waive letter grade assignments. These assignments, which measure the school’s performance with an A through F accountability grade, were determined to be insufficient based on data from the past year.
“This year’s statewide assessments will provide valuable information about the impact of COVID-19 on learning and will help identify where accelerated learning opportunities for students are most needed,” Wright said in a statement. “The policy suspensions are intended to support schools through this intensely challenging year for educators and students.”
The MDE will calculate and report the results of all statewide assessments administered during the 2020-21 school year and will submit information and a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education to meet federal requirements for assessment and accountability.
DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton said that curriculum at DeSoto County Schools will not change based on these policy adjustments.
“Our teachers will continue to teach every student to the best of their ability for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year,” Uselton said. “Students will still take state tests later this spring, and teachers will use that information in the fall of 2021 to identify individual academic strengths and areas for academic growth.”
Uselton said that teachers and students were met with many obstacles, and he commends the state board for acknowledging this.
“We are appreciative of the state superintendent and the state board of education for recognizing the challenges that (our) teachers and students are facing this school year,” Uselton said.
In April, Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order allowing the state board to suspend any state laws or policies that it deemed necessary to reflect the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the state education system.