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Mississippi and Wyoming Focus on Growth of Lowest Performing Students

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2018
Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

Mississippi and Wyoming Focus on Growth of Lowest Performing Students

Alexandria, VA — When the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress was released earlier this year, most states learned that their average scores in grades 4 and 8 reading and mathematics remained relatively flat since 2015. More troubling though, students performing at the lowest 10th and 25th percentiles saw a decline in their scores. To confront this decline, states like Mississippi and Wyoming are focusing their accountability systems on improving the academic growth of their lowest-performing students.

With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states can include a student growth indicator as a measure of school quality in their accountability systems. Most of them do. Nine states also saw this as an opportunity and added a separate growth measure for the bottom quartile and quintile of students.

“Schools with the greatest concentration of students living in poverty tend to fare poorly on grade-level proficiency measures,” writes author Joseph Hedger. “This measurement helps ensure that these students’ needs are addressed, and that their performance is not masked in the overall picture of school performance.”

The Mississippi State Board of Education approved an accountability plan with a student growth formula that calculates scores based on annual changes in reading and mathematics among five levels of proficiency. Mississippi added a separate weight to the growth scores of students in the lowest-performing quartile, which officials hope will encourage schools to focus on at-risk students regardless of their subgroup.

Wyoming also gives weight to the academic growth of the lowest-performing quartile of students in its ESSA plan. However, Wyoming’s formula for measuring academic growth includes student growth percentiles (SGPs), which calculate each student’s growth in reading and math based on how it compares to peers with similar grades and test score histories. The median score of all students in a school makes up 25 percent of its quality grade (20 percent for high school), and the state’s equity indicator, which measures the SGP of the bottom quartile of student scores, is given equal weight.

“In Mississippi, as in other states across the nation, we developed student growth measures not only to hold schools accountable for their students’ improvement but also to ensure that all students can get the resources they need to succeed,” said John Kelly, immediate past chair of NASBE’s Board of Directors and a member of the Mississippi Board of Education. “This is an important means for advancing equity and excellence in our schools.”

Read and share the NASBE policy update, “States Set Sights on Growth of Low-Performing Students.”

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at


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