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Senate seeks to replace end of course testing in Mississippi high schools

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar Jr., R-Leakesville, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

  • Alternatives suggested in the bill include the ACT and ACT WorkKeys.

A bill in the state Senate would replace the current system of using federal end of course testing in Mississippi high schools with a national testing option, such as the ACT. 

SB 2689, authored by State Senator Dennis DeBar (R), proposes to replace federally mandated end of course testing measures for 11th and 12th grade students starting with the 2026-2027 school year. The testing measures that would replace the current end of course measures would be determined by the Mississippi Department of Education.

“The Department of Education shall seek to secure approval from the United States Department of Education to allow nationally recognized college-readiness and career-readiness tests, such as, but not limited to, the ACT and ACT WorkKeys assessments, to serve as compliance with any Federal testing requirements, thereby eliminating all Federal EOC tests administered to eleventh and twelfth grades,” the bill outlines.

The intent of the bill is to cut down on the time students spend taking tests throughout the school year.

“For years, our schools have been inundated with testing. Moving to two college-readiness and career-readiness assessments, like the ACT and ACT WorkKeys, serve the dual purpose of cutting down on the sheer number of tests schools have to administer and provide students with test scores that will have an impact beyond high school,” DeBar said. “Scores on these tests are likely to be higher if students are practicing them more, and these tests can lead to scholarships, college admissions and jobs.”

Funding to provide that testing will be covered by the state, DeBar added.

Under the current system, a student must pass the four end of course subject areas, which are Algebra I, Biology I, English II and U.S. History, in order to graduate. If a student does not pass those assessments, there are alternate routes to earn a diploma. 

While the ACT includes a number of subject areas such as math, reading, science and English, it does not have a portion focusing specifically on U.S. History.

According to a 2018 report from Mississippi First, during the 2014-2015 school year, students were spending just under 8 hours of the 180-day school year on state tests.  Yet, as noted, test completion hours do not reflect all the time schools devote to standardized testing. Low-performing districts in their sample administered more tests and spent more time testing than high-performing districts, with low-performing districts prioritizing test prep over content instruction for at least 25% of their instructional year.

SB 2689 unanimously passed the Mississippi Senate earlier this month and now awaits consideration in the House Education Committee, chaired by State Rep. Rob Roberson (R).

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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