Mississippi Teacher Council – Questions and Answers from the September/October 2018 Meetings


  • When can we get 5th and 8th grade science and Biology practice tests?

The vendor has developed 10 sample items for grades 5 and 8. These released on October 8 in a PDF format. We released 10 sample items for biology on October 1. We will have a total of 25 items for Biology, Grade 5, and Grade 8 released in PDF format.

The test will consist of multiple-choice and technology enhanced items. There is one technology enhanced item that is “type-in-text.”  For science, this will be a term from a diagram or a number from a graphic or Punnett square.

There will be no essay type items or written components. For more information, review the blueprint folder located here: Science and History Resources

  • Is there a possibility of including a high school trigonometry class in the frameworks outside of integrated mathematics?

No, the decision during the 2013 and 2015 MS CCRS for Mathematics Committee Meetings was to discontinue the stand-alone Trigonometry course – an old course in the 2007 MS Mathematics Framework (Revised) – because the content in the Trigonometry course is present throughout the adopted 2016 MS CCRS for Mathematics. 

  • If the English II test was easier last year, how did proficiency go down across the state?

Here’s some information on the English II results:

Raw score changes for large scale tests are not uncommon. The process of equating ensures that scale scores and performance levels are comparable from year to year.

  • The MDE’s test vendor uses an equating approach that meets all criteria for professional accepted practices. It is regularly reviewed by the state’s national technical advisory committee.
  • In reviewing the 2018 equating for English II, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) chair asked the vendor to conduct multiple additional analyses to verify that the equating was correct. These analyses affirmed the vendor’s work was valid and reliable.
  • Although we had decreases in performance in levels 1-4 last school year, it is important to look at three years of data to see if we are seeing a pattern or trend in performance. Fortunately, because we have had three years of MAAP, we are able to look at performance on the English II exam over time.
  • An analysis of proficiency rates over the last three years showed that 56% of high schools increased their proficiency rate in English II. That’s significant that more than half of our students over that time have improved in achievement.
  • Finally, the department has received questions from both administrators and teachers regarding the number of questions that a student should get right to be considered proficient. That should never be a consideration. Teaching to the standards and helping students reach proficiency against those learning goals should be the target. Formats of tests change but the scale score is what’s consistent among the tests.
  • Where can I find scored writing samples?

You may find annotated scoring samples  for grades 3,4,7, and English II posted here. They are in the ELA Resources/ Writing Guidance folder on the MAAP page.

  • Are there any plans being considered to move away from MAAP to ACT and a citizenship test at the secondary level?

No, Mississippi has used MAAP for the last three years. MAAP is aligned to our state’s standards. The new U.S. History test incorporates civics in the standards.

  • Is there a long-term contract in place for the new testing company for Biology, or is this subject to further change?

We have a contract with a vendor to develop and to administer the state Biology test over the next several years. We foresee no changes.

  • Will there be a new practice test for Algebra 1? 

No, there are no current plans for developing new practice tests.


  • I am looking for information regarding the grading system/accountability scoring for K-2 elementary schools.  I have found the components for Elementary and Middle schools, but not specific information on how a K-2 school earns its grade since students aren’t assessed at that level.  Is this something you could help me with?

These schools are graded based on the proficiency of 3rd graders and growth of 4th graders that previously attended the school. 

  • Why does the English Learner (EL) score have such a large impact on school ratings?

The EL component is weighted at 5 percent of the overall model. In accordance with ESSA, the progress of EL students must have a substantial weight in the accountability model.


  • What improvements are planned in service and responsiveness in the Licensure Office? Teachers are concerned about getting their licensure needs met.

Over the past year, we have collected input from education stakeholders regarding areas in need of improvement. During the next three to six months, the Division of Educator Licensure will phase in each of the following service enhancements for prospective and practicing educators:

  • Complete recruitment and hiring of two additional licensure analysts to process licensure applications requests to decrease the number of days required for application processing
  • Establish a call center with full-time customer service representatives
  • Integrate call center software with Educator Licensure Management System (ELMS) for up-to-date application processing information
  • Automate processing of certain licensure application requests
  • Send document submission reminder notifications via email and text in advance of application expiration (licensure applications expire 30 days from date of submission)
  • Send requirements letter via email and text to increase chances of notification being received by applicant
  • Allow educators access to certain documents in their ELMS account and to requirement letter(s) sent by the MDE. Those documents will be printable.
  • Allow educators to submit certain documents electronically into the educator’s ELMS account, eliminating the need to submit supporting documentation via postal mail. Official transcripts and certain other documents are excluded.
  • Request educator to submit application for renewal prior to final year. This will help avoid delays in processing renewal requests by extending a license for one five-year period any time during the current validity period of the license if the renewal requirements are completed in a timely manner.


  • Will there be any MDE professional development available on the Coast for social studies teachers to aid in implementation of the 2018 MS CCR Standards for Social Studies?

MDE is working in conjunction with Mississippi Professional Educators to provide 2018 MS CCR Standards for Social Studies for fall and spring. Fall sessions are:

  • October 25: The Grand Hotel, Natchez;
  • December 6: Hancock Leadership Center, Tupelo;
  • January 29: The Capps Center, Indianola; and
  • February 11: Life Church, Laurel.

To register, visit www.mpe.org and click on the Professional Development tab. A spring schedule of 2018 MS CCR Standards for Social Studies is under development and will include the Gulf Coast.


  • What is the state’s plan to for students in the middle of the bell curve? They can earn more than a certificate but may struggle with passing state tests to get a diploma. Formerly, they would be on the MOD track.

Mississippi’s Traditional Diploma is designed for all students, except those with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Districts and schools must develop each student’s IEP with the individual supports, accommodations and modifications included for the student to successfully complete the standards required by their course of study.


  • Will there ever be compensation consideration given to tested-subject teachers, especially ELA? Prep and grading time are vastly more extensive for English teachers.

The MDE is currently exploring teacher mentorship opportunities that will open avenues for an additional stipend for veteran teachers and NBCTs.


  • How does the state plan to address the drop-out rate for high school students? 

Overall, the state’s drop-out rate has declined. The drop-out rate dipped for the fourth consecutive year to 10.6 percent from 13.9 percent in 2014 percent as school districts worked to help students to stay in school. We will continue to offer options for high school students, such as our diploma endorsements, to provide multiple pathways for students to exit high school to go to college or directly enter the workforce.

  • Can MDE recommend strategies for school districts to be in compliance with the job requirements for school counselors? School counselors are still serving as test coordinators in multiple districts.

Most school districts have removed school counselors as school test coordinators to appropriately follow the rule that school counselors will spend 80 percent of their day serving students. It is recommended that school counselors follow the American School Counselor Association’s mindsets and behaviors for student success. These national student standards can be found at www.schoolcounselor.org . 

  • What are the requirements for becoming a vendor to offer classes specifically online for a school district? 

For courses to be approved for use as online classes, local school districts must apply to the Mississippi Department of Education for approval to ensure the vendor/provider’s content, curriculum, and assessments are aligned to Mississippi’s course standards and the vendor/provider’s teachers are certified Mississippi teachers. Details are online at https://www.mdek12.org/ESE/OCA. 

  • What is the House Bill that limits school districts from taking teachers’ planning period? 

We are unfamiliar with legislation concerning this, but the Mississippi accreditation standards outline expectations. They are:

  • Each classroom teacher, excluding career-technical teachers whose class periods exceed 50 minutes, has an unencumbered period of time during the teaching day to be used for individual or departmental planning.
  • If the school utilizes a traditional six-period or seven-period day schedule, the instructional planning time provided for secondary teachers is a minimum of 225 minutes per week, exclusive of lunch period. If the school utilizes any form of a modular/block schedule, the instructional planning time provided is a minimum of either 225 minutes per week or an average of 225 minutes per week per instructional cycle, exclusive of lunch period.
  • Instructional planning time for the elementary school teacher is no less than 150 minutes per week, exclusive of lunch period.
  • Individual teachers (grades 9-12) are limited to three course preparations per scheduling cycle or five in the same subject/content area. Any request for an exception must be submitted in writing to the Commission on School Accreditation for review and action.

 How can a school earn the National Blue Ribbon designation?

Information on how a school may be selected for NBRS is available here.

  • When can we see the new interactive online Mississippi Succeeds Report Card?

The new online report card tool for schools and districts is now available: https://msrc.mdek12.org/