September 7, 2023

Miss. Dept. of Education invalidates over 900 state school assessments after investigation

Mary Apel

Over 900 student test results from 12 schools have been called invalid after staff were found to have violated security rules.

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has invalidated 934 spring 2023 state assessment results after an investigation of testing irregularities in five districts and 12 schools. The invalidated tests represent less than two-tenths of 1% of the 578,515 tests administered in spring 2023. Tests results were invalidated in a portion of tests in the following schools, grades and subjects:

Canton Public School District

Nichols Middle School – Grades 6, 7 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math
Greenville Public School District

Boyd Elementary School – Grade 5 ELA and Math
Hollandale School District

Simmons Junior High School – Grade 8 ELA
Simmons High School – English II
Jackson Public Schools

Dawson Elementary School – Grade 3 ELA and Math
Lester Elementary School – Grades 3, 4, 5 ELA and Math; grade 5 Science
Marshall Elementary School – Grade 3 ELA
McLeod Elementary School – Grades 3, 4, 5 ELA and Math
Peeples Middle School – Grades 6, 7, 8 ELA and Math; grade 8 Science
Wilkins Elementary School – Grade 4 Math
Lanier High School – English II
Wilkinson County School District

Wilkinson County High School – English II, Algebra I, U.S. History
The portion of tests invalidated in each grade and subject range from 8% to 94% of tests taken in each subject at each individual school.

Mississippi State Board of Education policy requires all test procedures and results used in the statewide assessment and/or accountability systems be valid and reliable for making related decisions. To help ensure assessment results are valid and reliable, the MDE conducts an annual statistical analysis of results for every test that is administered statewide. The annual analysis can reveal a range of testing irregularities and flags schools for monitoring and possible investigation. The most egregious irregularities result in the invalidation of scores.

Most tests were invalidated because of an extremely high level of similar responses and/or instances of wrong-to-right answer changes. The probability of the detected irregularities occurring under normal testing conditions is 1 in 1 quintillion, or 1 billion multiplied by 1 billion. The systemic scope of the irregularities indicates violations of test security.

The MDE notified the affected superintendents about testing irregularities in their districts on Aug. 15, 2023, and provided them with 15 working days to conduct an investigation and submit a report of their findings to the MDE.

Following the investigations in the Canton and Jackson school districts, district leaders determined 57 educators, administrators and staff violated test security rules. The districts took disciplinary action against the employees and, as required, reported the personnel to the MDE Office of Educator Misconduct. School personnel who violate test security rules face further disciplinary action against their educator license, which may include suspension or revocation, and possible criminal charges.

The district-led investigations in the Greenville, Hollandale and Wilkinson school districts did not identify any school personnel who violated test security rules. Based on the forensic evidence of testing irregularities, the MDE is now conducting test security and educator misconduct investigations in each of these districts. State law requires school districts to reimburse the MDE for the cost of state-led testing investigations.

“The MDE takes seriously its obligation to ensure the validity of the statewide assessment and accountability systems,” said Dr. Ray Morgigno, interim state superintendent of education. “We recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of schools properly administer state assessments. However, interference in state testing corrupts the integrity of the assessments and deprives students and families of receiving a true and accurate measure of student learning and achievement.”

The MDE is sending letters to the parents and guardians of students whose spring 2023 assessment scores were invalidated to inform them that their children’s score reports are not valid. Families who receive these letters are urged to contact their child’s school district to request a true picture of their child’s performance. Falsified test results deprive students, families and other teachers of knowing whether students need extra help and support.

Schools that promoted 3rd grade students with invalidated English Language Arts scores will be required to provide those students with additional support and intervention, if necessary, to ensure the students are reading proficiently.

Students with invalidated high school test results are required to retake the exams in the 2023-24 school year because the assessments are required for graduation.

Schools with invalidated test scores in 10% or more of their assessments included in the Mississippi Statewide Accountability System will not receive a letter grade for the 2022-23 school year and will have their accreditation status downgraded or withdrawn. School and district grades will be released on September 28. Grades for the following schools will be noted as test data invalidated:

Canton Public School District

Nichols Middle School
Greenville Public School District

Boyd Elementary School
Hollandale School District

Simmons High School
Jackson Public Schools

Dawson Elementary School
Lester Elementary School
McLeod Elementary School
Peeples Middle School
Wilkinson County School District

Wilkinson County High School

MDE cannot provide any further details regarding the status of these open investigations.

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