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Student testing still on for spring: Hard-hit districts may win delays

Ohanian Comment: Are these corporate-politico flaks blind or just deliberately officious? Imagine the suffering of these families, and then imagine the children being required to take high stakes tests.

Imagine all that, and then blame the teachers for a poor showing.

By Melissa M. Scallan

GULFPORT - Hurricane Katrina won't give South Mississippi students a reprieve from state and federal tests this spring.

Students still must take accountability tests to determine what they've learned since last spring, but those tests might be delayed a couple of weeks to give teachers more instruction time.

Students in grades 2 through 8 take annual proficiency tests in reading, math and language; students in grades 4 and 7 take writing assessments; students in grades 5 and 8 take annual science proficiency tests, and high school students must take tests in English II, Biology I, U.S. History and Algebra I to graduate.

State Superintendent Hank Bounds said districts can ask for leniency in state and federal accountability requirements following a natural disaster, but he said educators want students to take the tests and see how they perform.

"There's a provision in the law that speaks to natural disasters, and it provides some flexibility for those districts impacted," Bounds said. "Once they receive their test results, we can go back and request that they be held harmless, so we don't see that being a real issue.

"We feel like it's best to get our results before we make the request."

Bounds and district superintendents believe more students will return to their own schools after the holidays.

For this year, the state has suspended the Mississippi Curriculum retest for grades 3 and 7, the writing assessment for grades 4 and 7, the Terra Nova test for grade 6 and the science test for grades 5 and 8.

These tests aren't required for state or federal accountability.

Bounds said that while some schools on the Coast were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, other districts throughout the state have taken on the displaced students. He and other educators are focusing on the students rather than the scores.

"I think things are going as well as we can expect them to go," he said. "I think teachers are working hard, administrators are working hard, and kids are working hard, but it was an unbelievably traumatic event for everyone, and I can see there being some real focus issues for students and teachers.

"I know people are working as hard as they can work, and that's all I can ask of people. We'll deal with the results when they come."

Test schedule

Here are the approximate dates for state and federal tests for Mississippi students. Those dates could be delayed by a few weeks in districts hit by Hurricane Katrina:

January 9-12: Subject area tests in English II, Biology I, U.S. History and Algebra I (these tests originally were scheduled for Dec. 6-9 but were rescheduled because of Katrina).

April 25-28: Spring subject area tests in English II, Biology I, U.S. History and Algebra I.

May 2-3: Mississippi Curriculum Tests in reading, language and math in grades 2-8.


— Melissa M. Scallan
The (South Mississippi) Sun Herald


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