State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright wants to move the goalposts on third-grade literacy, requiring students to score significantly higher to advance to fourth grade. But Gov. Phil Bryant, while he says he supports higher standards, said he thinks that should be done gradually, and only if lawmakers add more money for help.
The Mississippi Department of Education announced last week that 92 percent of last year’s nearly 38,000 third graders had passed the test after three attempts. But not even 8 percent are actually repeating third grade this year. That’s because the state is still gathering data on how many students didn’t pass the test but got exemptions and were allowed to advance to fourth grade anyway.
Those who will move ahead with exemptions could be a large share of the remaining 2,900 who didn’t pass. In Tupelo, for example, more than 40 of 517 third-graders didn’t pass the test, according to state numbers. But Superintendent Gearl Loden told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that the majority of those were special education students who received exemptions and were allowed to advance. He said only 10 students didn’t get exemptions and were retained.
Wright has emphasized repeatedly that passing the third-grade test only required a basic score level and that many students who barely cleared the bar will need extra help in fourth grade. Now, though, she wants to require more, asking lawmakers to change the law to require not just basic skills but proficiency.