Teaching methods, re-evaluating test complexity, catering to learning styles—What can lawmakers do to avoid a high rate of failure regarding state mandated testing?
Dr. Dave Daves serves as Chair of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education at Southern Miss. Daves' Southern Miss office is adorned with shelves of books both tattered and new with titles ranging from "How to be a Single Parent" to "Math and the Mona Lisa' to "K-12 Teaching."
The books speak for his strong background in Higher Education. He thinks lack of preparation is the reason why students can't pass, and a history of laxed expectations is to blame.
"When it comes to actual foundational knowledge like reading, math, and things like that, they're deficient," Daves said.
There could be more to the state test than meets the eye.
Most of those tests don't really measure subjects; they measure reading abilities," Daves said.
"From a school standpoint-- how a student could do well in school-- that level of testing to get that A or B is different than the state test."
The Mississippi Department of Education recently informed thousands of students that they would not be allowed to graduate because of poor state test results, nor would they be allowed to participate in graduation activities leading up to receiving a diploma.
This sparked outrage in households, school districts, and classrooms across the state. The Mississippi Department of Education spent the past week answering calls from frustrated and confused mothers, such as Jennifer Reid.
"My son had a full scholarship for football to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and now he can't accept it," Reid said.
Reid is one frustrated citizen, among several.
"My child passed every single test, except for the history portion," said Denise Stapleton, mother of a high school senior who withdrew from her school in hopes of receiving a diploma from a different school.
Her daughter was off by three points.
"My daughter is unfortunately one of those that isn't going to be able to walk with her class because she couldn't pass it. My daughter has a 3.71 GPA. She passed her History class in her junior year with an A or a B. She took the test 5 times and each time missed passing it by 2-7 points. I have appealed to the superintendent and the principal of the South Panola school district to no avail," said Marla Holcomb, mother.
Holcomb's daughter is now pursuing her GED.
The three women aforementioned are among many parents who feel left in the dark by the Mississippi Department of Education.
James Mason, Communications Director of MDE has a different outlook.
"This test will equip students for the real world, and I do think passing all categories is necessary," Mason said in a phone interview.
Mississippi Department of Education stated Wednesday that students who passed all categories of the state test except one category can take an emergency retest.
See if you can pass a practice version of the test by clicking: here. (Or visit this link: http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/docs/student-assessment/history_i_practice_test_set_1.pdf?sfvrsn=2)
Superintendent of Laurel School District, Chuck Benigno, expressed relief.
"We are very excited about the opportunity for our students to get one more chance to take the state test. We have several students who only have to take one more test, so they qualify," Benigno said.
Benigno and other Pine Belt superintendents think the history portion of the state test should be reconsidered.
"I do believe there are problems with the history test. Even though we are going to get a second chance, there are issues with this test."
Seventy students in our viewing area did not pass the state test.
The retests are scheduled to be at Mississippi State University. School districts are scrambling to arrange transportation to Starkville for their students at the end of this week or beginning of next week.
Districts are required to pay $250 per student for the emergency test.