Mississippi: Progress Commanding Attention or Outright Miracle?

Due to comments from others about Mississippi, I thought it would be useful to post a short message with some of the data I have been looking at recently that tells me while Mississippi’s educational improvements are not in the miracle category, they are really notable and command attention. Let me provide some evidence.

The first attached jpg shows how Mississippi stacked up against other states in NAEP Grade 4 Reading in 2013, the year its reform legislation was enacted, and the latest 2022 results. This and the following jpgs were prepared using the NAEP Data Explorer, by the way.

Looking at the first jpg, there is no other way to consider this than a remarkable improvement for Mississippi.

First, note I have separately analyzed scores for white and Black students. If you only look at overall average scores, you won’t see what is really happening because by only looking at overall scores you wind up comparing a lot of kids of color in Mississippi to white students in a number of other states. Even the NAEP 2009 Science Report Card discusses this issue and you can check Page 32 in that report card if you want more on this topic.

Getting back to the first jpg, note that between 2013 and 2022, Mississippi has really jumped up in relative ranking for both white and Black students.

If we honor the statistical sampling errors present in all NAEP scores, Mississippi’s progress in NAEP Grade 4 Reading is still remarkable.

For example, in 2013, white students in 40 of the 50 states outscored MS’ whites. By 2022, only 2 states could claim they performed better after the NAEP sampling errors were considered.

Despite the general trend thanks to COVID, MS white scale score went from 222 to 230 between 2013 and 2022, as well. Consider what happened to 2013’s top-placed Maryland for a comparison. In 2013 Maryland’s whites scored 244. By 2022, Maryland only scored 232, which was statistically tied with Mississippi.

For Black students, in 2013, out of the 39 states that had Black scores in both years, 18 statistically significantly outperformed MS’ Black students. In 2022, no state in the nation statistically significantly outperformed MS’ Blacks. MS’ Black student scale score also rose from 197 to 204. Maryland was again the top performer in 2013, with a Black scale score of 214. By 2022, almost certainly thanks in part to COVID, Maryland had decayed to 202, which was not statistically significantly different from MS’ 204, but certainly wasn’t higher anymore.

A miracle? No. Darn attention-getting — YOU BET!

But, what about the claim it was all just due to MS retaining more students than any other state. Well, Fordham Institute actually put out a “Flypaper” claiming that back in 2019 (https://tinyurl.com/5dy47vam). But, if you look at it today, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the article saying no, retention doesn’t explain away MS’ improvement. Fordham looked at some demographic data available in the NAEP Data Explorer which showed that MS always had high retention rates and the NAEP samples were always similarly impacted, so the change in performance could not be due to that. You can see that data Fordham talks about in the second jpg. This shows the percentages of students in the NAEP tested samples that were below, at, or above the modal age for Grade 4 NAEP, which is 9 years old. As you can see, things haven’t changed much all the way back to 1992, the first year State NAEP was given in Grade 4 reading.

Another factor could inflate NAEP scores — large exclusion rates of students. However, as various sections of Table 18 in the attached Excel spreadsheet show, from 2013 on MS has only excluded 1% of the raw sample NAEP wanted to test, the lowest rate for any participating state. So, that doesn’t explain away MS’ improvement either.

So, bottom line for me at this point is MS’ reading improvement in Grade 4 is real, and significant. Those who want to disregard MS are not conversant with all the data and/or are playing adult politics for other reasons (maintaining legacy, lucrative contracts, etc.).

But, what about the claim that the improvements in Grade 4 never showed up in Grade 8 NAEP.

Well, to be honest, since they only really showed in Grade 4 in 2019, it didn’t seem like there had been enough time for things to start improving in Grade 8. But, surprise! Take a look at the third jpg.

As of 2022, improvements in MS’ reading performance are starting to show up in Grade 8 NAEP, too! In 2013, whites in 43 states statistically significantly outperformed whites in MS. By 2022, only 5 states could make the same claim.

For Black students, out of 42 states with scores in 2013, Blacks in 27 states outscored MS’ Blacks. Flash forward to 2022, and Black students in only 1 state can make that claim!

For both whites and Black students, MS’ NAEP Grade 8 Reading Scale Score only increased 1 point, but in general scores declined elsewhere. For example, top-scoring Massachusetts scored 285 in 2013 but lost 10 points in the 2022 Grade 8 NAEP Reading results for whites. For Black students, top-scoring New Jersey in 2013 lost 11 points by 2022.

So, even in Grade 8, the Mississippi reform looks like it is starting to show notable progress.

Oh, the last jpg shows that retention doesn’t explain the Grade 8 results, either.

Those trying to deny this just don’t know the data or have other motives that are not in the best interests of students.

This entry was posted in Curriculum & Instruction, Education journalism, K-12, math, Mathematics, Richard Innes, US Education Department and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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