While the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NAEP) don’t reflect well for the country’s young readers as a whole, Mississippi ranked No. 1 for score gains in reading and mathematics in 2019 on the nation’s report card.

This is the first time Mississippi fourth-graders have scored higher than the nation’s public school average in mathematics and tied the nation in reading.

Fourth grade students made the largest score gains from 2017 to 2019 in reading and mathematics while eighth grade students outpaced the nation for growth in mathematics and eighth grade reading scores held steady, according to a story by Daily Journal staff writer Blake Alsup.

Nationally, just 35 percent of fourth-graders are considered proficient by NAEP standards as of this year; only 34 percent of eighth-graders scored at the proficient level or higher for this year, down from 36 percent in 2017.

The state’s mathematics and reading scores are the highest they have ever been and are now on par with the national public average.

Student achievement in Mississippi has accelerated more rapidly since the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which requires the state’s third-graders to pass a reading assessment to be promoted to the fourth grade, was implemented statewide in 2013, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

The state’s gains coincide with its renewed commitment to early reading, including the push for teacher-preparation programs to teach the science of reading.

This accomplishment comes on the heels of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act annual report, which indicated that the large majority of third-graders passed the third-grade reading assessment after the final retest, with 85.6% meeting the highest reading standard ever required under the Act. The LBPA requires third-graders to pass a reading assessment to qualify for promotion to fourth-grade, unless the student meets one of the good cause exemptions specified in the law.

The state’s goal is to have 70 percent of its students be proficient on both the English and math MAAP tests by 2025.

These tests provide data on how students are performing and where the strengths and weaknesses lie.

And that data shows that Mississippi’s move to more rigorous standards and tests has been successful. And it shows that much more work remains.

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