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National Tests Show Miss. Makes Small Gains

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 02 Nov 2011 06:28pm | comments
Photo via hmtk34 on Flickr

New national test results show many Mississippi 8th graders are doing better at adding and subtracting fractions and isolating a variable.  But as  MPB’s Southern Education Desk reporter Annie Gilbertson reports the news is not all good.

The newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress scores show that Mississippi is one of only 13 states showing significant gains in 8th grade math performance.

These students at Stringer Attendance Center, a K12 school in the small town outside of Laurel, drill the order of operations every day.  Remember Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?  It's a mnemonic that helps students remember the order - parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.

Michelle Green, a math teacher at Stringer says having a firm understanding of the basics is vital to students in the years leading up to 8th grade. They need it too, because she says 8th grade math is a bit of a game changer.

Green: “It’s just a different way of thinking.  It’s a little bit more abstract than they’re  used to. They have to read between the lines some.   They have to know what a lot of vocabulary means.  So it does.  It makes them think a little bit harder.”

Green says part of the credit for higher scores goes to the Mississippi Department of Education, which she said emphasized building a strong foundation in the early grades and increased expectations in the later grades.

But despite the increased math success among 8th graders, by comparison, 4th grade math scores only went up slightly .  And reading scores for both 4th and 8th grade didn't vary significantly from 2009 scores.  On average, only around 1 in 5 students are performing at a proficient or advanced level on these national assessment tests. James Mason, the Director of Student Assessment at the Mississippi Department of Education, says that’s not good enough.

Mason: “Clearly we are not where we need to be.  I think these scores should serve as some what a wake-up call.  As we move forward we are going to continue to raise the bar.”

Mason says Common Core, the new national standards Mississippi adopted, will provide the next big push for more complex and comprehensive reading and math education.  And more competitive national test scores will follow.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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Photo via hmtk34 on Flickr


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