McGehee declares testing useless
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 1:00 PM
The superintendent of the Madison County schools has declared a "year of uncertainty" in Mississippi's public education as the state shifts to Common Core.
State testing scores were released Tuesday, but they're "meaningless," said Ronnie McGehee, superintendent of the Madison County Schools.
"Comparing school district scores is totally useless," he said. "We're changing from one assessment to the next."
In the results released Tuesday, students taking the English and Math tests are placed in one of four categories: minimum, basic, proficient and advanced.
For the county schools, there was a decrease in advanced and an increase in basic from 2013-2014, but McGehee said it's comparing apples to oranges.
In 2013, 6.52 percent scored minimum, 16.77 percent scored basic, 52.13 percent scored proficient, and 24.63 percent scored advanced. In 2014, 6.63 percent scored minimum, 19.28 percent scored basic, 52.62 percent scored proficient, and 21.48 percent scored advanced.
"The performance levels on state tests were lower this year as expected because the 2014 tests were not aligned to Mississippi's higher academic standards," Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said on Tuesday.
"We are looking forward to implementing the state's new assessments in 2015, which will provide a more meaningful measure of what students are currently learning in class."
Mississippi schools are moving away from MCT-2 testing to PARCC assessments (Common Core.) McGehee said the district had 14 PARCC field tests underway a week before the state testing.
During the transition to PARCC assessments, McGehee said the Legislature is allowing a "hold harmless" situation in regards to test scores.
A shift in curriculum across the state meant classroom studies were not aligned with the state testing.
"Why in the world are we still taking state testing if it isn't going to count," McGehee asked. "We don't get an answer, other than the federal government...under No Child Left Behind..."
Future assessments are up in the air, too, McGehee said, wondering what the standards will be with PARCC tests that will be taken this spring.
"This is a new assessment that has no standard setting," he explained.
McGehee is afraid the PARCC assessments will be created in Florida and used to test Mississippians. That's one reason why he is an advocate for tossing state testing and adapting the ACT as the new testing standard.
"There are a number of states that have backed out of PARCC," he said. "Let's go with the gatekeeper - the ACT. And guess what, it costs $36."
Oklahoma, Arizona, South Carolina and Indiana all made efforts to move away from PARCC and Common Core. Only 13 states remain in the PARCC consortium.
With PARCC testing next semester, McGehee was hoping last year's field tests would give them an idea on what they need to prepare for.
"In their infinite wisdom they gave us no feedback," he said. "No information on how we scored, how we did, or how we compared to other districts."
The Canton Public School District had similar percentage changes. There was a slight growth from 16.5 percent to 19.2 percent for minimum and a 1 percent drop in proficient and advanced.
The MCT-2 test is given to students in third through eighth grades in math and English.
Upon approval by the Mississippi Board of Education, districts will be assigned grades. Last year, the MCSD had the highest rating possible with an "A" across the district. The CPSD had a "D" classification.