Both Lauderdale County and Meridian schools followed a statewide trend in state test scores for 2020-21, according to data released by the Mississippi Department of Education.

According to MDE, districts across the state experienced a dip in test scores due to learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Compared to 2018-2019, there was an overall statewide decrease of 12.3 percent in math and a 6.7 percent decrease in English and language arts. 

Students across Mississippi didn't take state tests during the 2019-20 school year because of the pandemic. 

“We anticipated that we would be down from where we were before the pandemic,” said Ken Hardy, director of federal programs and accountability for the Lauderdale County  School District.

Hardy said the percentage of proficient students decreased for each tested area, dipping about 10 to 15 percent per grade. In sixth grade math, for example, the district went from 50.4 percent to 36.3 percent proficient, he said. 

Hardy said scores for third and fourth grade English and language arts were down about  10 percent and 15 percent respectively. Math scores for third graders were down about about 20 percent 25 percent for fourth graders, he said. 

But Hardy noted an increase in ELA scores in fifth, sixth and eighth grades and fifth grade math and science. Fifth grade math scores increased from 37.4 percent to 45.1 percent,  an eight percent increase, he said. 

“We're trending in the right direction and it's something we can build on for the next school year as we identify the gaps that students have," Hardy said. "To target the learning loss, have, to make improvements in our instruction, and to produce a better student.” 

Meridian Public Schools 

 Janet Fortner, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Meridian Public School District, said there was an increase in eighth grade ELA scores, as well as increases in third grade and fifth grade ELA proficiency at two elementary schools and a rise in math proficiency at three elementary schools.

Fortner said following a statewide trend, the district saw a 10.3 decrease decline in math scores. Fortner said based on the data, third and fifth grade showed areas of proficiency.

Fortner said the district will continue to focus on the whole child, which includes strengthening academic, social and emotional gaps caused by the pandemic.

The district plans to hire certified interventionists, offer small group instruction and professional development for teachers and offer after school remediation and enrichment to focus on students' strengths and needs. 

“First, I would like to say that I am proud of our students, families, teachers, and community for the resolve they have shown through the COVID-19 pandemic," MPSD Superintendent  Amy Carter said in an email. "This has been a very challenging time in all of our lives. We did expect for there to be possible decreases. Any time students are out of school for an extended period there is unfinished learning. We know that the best place for students to learn is in a classroom and having that taken away from them due to the pandemic created the gaps in learning you are seeing now, not only in MPSD but across the state and country as a whole.”

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