Nearly 1 in 4 Coast students failed the new third grade reading test. Here are all the scores.

About one in four third graders statewide and on the Coast failed a toughened reading test on the first try this spring, results released Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Education show, leaving it unclear if they will advance to fourth grade.

Mississippi is one of 16 states that demand third grade students pass a reading score threshold or flunk, with Nevada and Michigan imposing such requirements in the next two years. Mississippi raised its threshold this year, mandating students reach the middle of five scoring levels, which officials describe as “approaching grade level expectations.” From 2015, the first year the requirement was implemented, until last year, students only had to reach the second lowest achievement level, called “basic.”

State Superintendent Carey Wright was the prime mover in increasing the threshold, a move the Legislature approved in 2016. She had long been uncomfortable that students who remained far from proficient were allowed to advance.

“I think we have to hold the bar high,” Wright told reporters Wednesday. “Children’s lives depend on it.”

Of 35,000 students, nearly 9,000 failed the test.

South Mississippi school districts had an average passing rate of 76%, down from 95% or higher last year. The education department does not list specific scores for schools with a passing rate of 95% or higher, or for schools with less than 10 students tested to protect the privacy of student scores.

Last year, 39 Coast schools and eight districts had a passing rate 95% or higher. This year, only one school did — Pineville Elementary, a Harrison County school off Menge Avenue in Pass Christian.

Long Beach School District had the highest passing rate on the Coast at 89%. Moss Point again had the lowest at 50%. One other district scored below the state average: George County.

Districts % passing
Long Beach89
Ocean Springs87.2
Jackson County85.3
Harrison County81.6
Stone County79.8
Pass Christian78.5
Pearl River County78.5
State average74.5
George County67.9
Moss Point50

By comparison, 15% of students failed the first round of testing in 2015, with 8% ultimately forced to repeat third grade. Students repeating third grade are supposed to receive intensive tutoring from highly qualified teachers. Statewide, Chickasaw County school district had the top share of passing third graders at 94%, while Yazoo City was lowest at 32%. The state is taking over Yazoo City on June 1 as part of its achievement school district aimed at improving performance. The districts that performed the worst were typically small, rural, poor and overwhelmingly African American, places that struggle to attract good teachers.Students had a second chance last week, although those results aren’t yet available. Students get a third chance to advance later this summer, after districts finish up summer school. About 3% of students were allowed to advance last year without passing for various reasons.

Officials had predicted passing rates would drop from last year’s 93.8%, when students had to reach the second level. However, Kymona Burk, until recently the state literacy director, had told The Associated Press earlier this year that officials were hoping as many as 80% would pass.

Wright counted it as a victory that 74.5% of students reached the third level this year, up from 73.8% last year.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the work that teachers have done,” Wright said.

Only reading scores are available for the test now, and Wright says that once writing scores come in, some additional third graders could shift to the passing column. She says she expects full results to show that the share of students scoring at proficient and above has continued to increase.

Mississippi is paying for literacy coaches to help improve instruction in 182 of 420 schools statewide with a third grade. The state also has provided training on teaching reading to 13,000 people, and provides extra money for summer schools for struggling readers.

The Republican policymakers who adopted Mississippi’s plan from Florida support it, also pointing to improvements in performance on a nationwide test. At least one independent study of Florida has found benefits uncertain.

“Making sure children can read before being socially promoted is critical,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. “I will continue to make sure our students are put in a position to succeed and that means setting high expectations.”

Bryant, who says he is “glad” that three-fourths of students passed, was a prime mover in the law’s original adoption.

South Mississippi scores

North Bay Elementary77.991.8
Gorenflo Elementary48.991.3
Jeff Davis Elementary88.993.4
North Bay Elementary S91.4≥ 95
Popps Ferry Elementary84.992.9
Agricola Elementary74.6≥ 95
Benndale Elementary53.188
Central Elementary79.2≥ 95
L.C. Hatcher Elementary4077.3
L.T. Taylor Intermediate55.692.9
Rocky Creek Elementary76.2≥ 95
GULFPORT81.4≥ 95
Anniston Avenue Elementary87.3≥ 95
Bayou View Elementary94.9≥ 95
Central Elementary77.5≥ 95
Gaston Point Elementary71.994.7
Pass Road Elementary79.788.3
Twenty Eighth Street Elementary71.4≥ 95
West Elementary67.9≥ 95
HANCOCK 83.3≥ 95
East Hancock Elementary93.5≥ 95
Hancock North Central Elementary*79.1≥ 95
South Hancock Elementary*78.392.5
West Hancock Elementary77.294.4
Bel Aire Elementary74.394.4
Crossroads Elementary73.8≥ 95
D’Iberville Elementary87.2≥ 95
Harrison Central Elementary77.4≥ 95
Lizana Elementary86.1≥ 95
Lyman Elementary80.4≥ 95
North Woolmarket Elementary88.4≥ 95
Pineville Elementary≥ 95≥ 95
River Oaks Elementary63.594.1
Saucier Elementary91.3≥ 95
Three Rivers Elementary79.5≥ 95
West Wortham Elementary89.8≥ 95
Woolmarket Elementary94≥ 95
East Central Upper Elementary 8193.9
St Martin East Elementary92.2≥ 95
St Martin N Elementary88.1≥ 95
Vancleave Upper Elementary80.693.3
Thomas L. Reeves Elementary89.2≥ 95
W.J. Quarles Elementary88.8≥ 95
Moss Point Escatawpa Upper Elementary5093
Magnolia Park Elementary89.8≥ 95
Oak Park Elementary85.2≥ 95
Pecan Park Elementary86.5≥ 95
Arlington Heights Elementary*74.286.4
Beach Elementary 55.6≥ 95
Central Elementary 76.790.2
Cherokee Elementary*88.1≥ 95
College Park Elementary74.394.9
Eastlawn Elementary73.9≥ 95
Gautier Elementary81.3≥ 95
Jackson Elementary72.792.4
Lake Elementary8083.3
Martin Bluff78.9≥ 95
Delisle Elementary79.7≥ 95
Pass Christian Elementary77.3≥ 95
Pearl River Central Elementary78.5≥ 95
PICAYUNE 72.892.4
Nicholson Elementary60.983.1
Roseland Park Elementary8094.9
South Side Elementary77≥ 95
West Side Elementary69.294.3
Poplarville Lower Elementary*≥ 95
Poplarville Upper Elementary77.6

Perkinston Elementary78.7≥ 95
Stone Elementary80.894.8

* Denotes Literacy Support Schools

Poplarville Lower Elementary score redacted because it had less than 10 students tested.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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