March 29 to April 23, 2021.
If you aren’t aware of the significance of this time period, ask any educator in any Mississippi public school.
This is the window that the Mississippi Department of Education has set for state testing of students.
The assessments are part of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, a law enacted in 2013 that requires all public school third-graders in Mississippi pass a reading test to advance to the fourth grade. And high schoolers take tests in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History designed to determine whether students have the knowledge and skills needed to graduate.
In Mississippi, schools and districts receive a grade of A through F under an accountability system. The grade reflects their performance in areas such as student achievement, student growth, graduation rate and participation rate, which measures the percentage of students who participate in statewide testing and how well the students perform.
So doing well on the state tests is, well, everything.
And yes, the MDE does mean all students — virtual, hybrid, and in-person.
To lift the requirements, the Legislature or Gov. Tate Reeves, via an executive order, would have to act to adopt any possible changes as they are all currently required by law.
Many educators are eyeing their calendars and holding their breath that Reeves will act on the recommendations made by State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright in a recent Senate Education Committee hearing.
Wright stated that she feels this year should be a period of grace considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our schools, our teachers, and our children are under a lot of pressure about this, but knowing we have not had a standard way of instructing children — to hold children accountable, I do not feel is fair,” Wright said.
Wright and the state department of education are also recommending schools and districts retain their letter grade from the 2018-19 school year for the 2020-21 school year.
If this happens, it would be the second school year in which districts retain 2018-19 ratings. State testing was canceled last spring because of the pandemic, which meant there were no test results to base 2019-20 accountability ratings on. As a result, the Mississippi State Board of Education allowed all school districts to retain whatever rating they had from the previous school year.
One popular solution is to allow state testing to continue this year, but only to assess the impact of COVID-19 on student learning and to meet federal requirements.
Until the governor makes a decision, most public school educators, students and parents will continue watching the calendar with No. 2 pencils sharpened and fingers crossed.