The Mississippi Senate Education Committee heard from Mississippi Department of Education officials including State Superintendent Carey Wright. MDE provided an update on how schools are adjusting to another year of operations under the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the presentation Wright told legislators she is recommending to them and Governor Tate Reeves that they not require third graders to pass the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment this year.

“I do believe this needs to be a year of grace for our schools and for our teachers and our children,” said Wright.

She also recommended that they waive the High School end-of-course tests and that districts retain their current accountability rating for this year. But Wright did say they planned to continue forward with statewide assessments.

“We are intending to provide the statewide assessments this year,” said Wright “We need to know the state of education in Mississippi. This will have been two full years without a statewide assessment. We need to get a lay of the land.”

Federal law requires a statewide assessment and accountability models to be run, so Wright said until they hear differently from the new administration, they will continue administering them. Since there is no ability to test remotely, Mississippi can test the children that are still in school.

She said the continuation of these assessments will allow MDE to know the areas students are excelling in and areas that need to be addressed, as well as professional development that need to be provided.

While there are concerns that virtual only learning does not provide the best education for students, Wright said she does not refer to it as a “learning loss.”

“I do not use the term learning loss for a very good reason, because I think it’s a negative balance and we don’t want children to feel that they’ve done something wrong,” said Wright. She said they’ve told teachers to start with grade level expectations and move from there.

Moving into the coming years, Dr. Wright said she anticipates that students will return to in person school by next year and asked the Legislature to consider funding based on average daily membership versus daily attendance.