Are Mississippi public school students spending too much time taking standardized tests? Not exactly, according to a new report.
The problem, the report claims, is with the amount of prep time.
Mississippi First, an education advocacy group, recently released findings from a study on state testing. Between 2014-15, it found public school students spend about eight hours, or less than 1 percent of the 180-day school year, taking state tests.
But those eight hours do not include the time preparing for and discussing the tests.
For the report, Mississippi First said it studied four types of school districts by population, income level and access to technology.
The districts were a small, lower-poverty district with 1:1 technology; a small, high-poverty district without 1:1 technology; a mid-sized, (about 5,000 students) high-poverty district with partial 1:1 technology; and a mid-sized,lower-poverty district without 1:1 technology.
The report found students in lower-performing districts spent more time preparing for tests and taking standardized tests than students in higher-performing districts.
One of the standardized tests used in the state is Mississippi Academic Assessment Program, which measures performance in English Language Arts and mathematics in grades 3-8, as well as in English II and Algebra I in high school.
For the 2016-17 school year, the Ocean Springs School District had the highest percentage of students, 84.71 percent, who scored passing grades on the Coast. Moss Point School District had the lowest.
The state also has an accountability system, which grades districts A-F.
The Pass Christian School District received a "B" rating in the fall of 2017, dropping from an "A" by a few points. Superintendent Carla Evers said her district tests students three times a year.
In the report, Mississippi First suggests schools cut back on the amount of prep time for testing. Other suggestions include allowing teachers to create their own standardized tests and create a task force to examine instructional time in the districts.
Evers said she sees no need for testing reform, at least in her district.
"The assessments have undergone a recent overhaul with the move from PARCC to MAAP," she said. "We are now in a period of stabilization, which is important to our ability to use the data as an achievement indicator."
"We recognize the importance of assessing," she said. "There are not many professions that exist where passing a test is not a threshold for entry into said profession. Further, until society de-emphasizes standardized testing in schools, i.e., it is not headline news, I fear not much will change. Teachers would love to be able to teach, and let the test happen without fear of heavy scrutiny."