The possibility that a considerable number of third-grade students at public schools in Leflore and Carroll counties may be held back has stirred commentary on Facebook about the necessity and meaning of the test that determines if third-graders can go into fourth grade.

The Mississippi Department of Education released statewide results Wednesday of third-grade reading assessment tests given in April. The tests measure students’ reading comprehension.

By the end of third grade, students should be able to read well enough to use that skill in learning other subjects, because otherwise there’s a risk that the students may fall behind and eventually drop out, the MDE says.

A student must pass the assessment to proceed to fourth grade. Results are graded on five levels, with Level 5 being the highest.

This year, the passing benchmark for the test was raised to Level 3, which may be the most likely reason for the increased failure rates across the state, including elementary schools in the Greenwood, Leflore County  and Carroll County districts.  

Students who do not pass the test the first time have two more opportunities to take it. A second test was given earlier this month, and results are expected by the end of the month. The third opportunity will take place between June 24 and Aug. 2.

Statewide, one in four students failed the assessment, meaning thousands of third-graders could be held back if they don’t pass on their second or third attempts.

On Facebook, people reacted to the Commonwealth’s report that at least half of the local students who took the test had not passed it. Those commenting had different reasons for the students’ performance.

Gabriell Robinson, a local parent who has three children enrolled in the Greenwood district, though none of them are in third grade this year, complained about the test on Facebook Thursday.

Then, during an interview, she elaborated, saying students are too inundated with state assessments.

“Take all them tests out because it’s ridiculous,” she said.

She said the assessments have become stressful for her and her oldest child, Jakala, who just completed fifth grade at Threadgill Elementary.  

MDE administers assessment tests to kindergartners, students from third grade to eighth grade and high school juniors.

Robinson said she’s considering enrolling Jakala for sixth grade at St. Francis of Assisi School, which is a parochial school, or the privately operated North New Summit School so she can avoid the state tests.

As of now, it’s just a thought, and Robinson hasn’t taken any action. If she does enroll Jakala, however, Robinson said she might also enroll her two younger children in private schools.

Like Robinson, other people took issue with the test, finding it hard to believe that a student could fail a grade based on test performance even if he or she did well in the class otherwise.

Two people on Facebook blamed teachers for the students’ poor performance; others came to the defense of teachers, saying they shouldn’t bear the sole responsibility for a child’s education.

People said parents need to take a more proactive approach in their children’s education.

One parent said that she has made sure her children spend less time on electronic devices and more time reading books.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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