For many years, children spent most of the school year preparing for the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT2) but now a new assessment has come to town and it is based on common core standards.
During the next school term, students will be required to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.
According to Cleveland School District Superintendent Dr. Jacquelyn Thigpen, the test will be rigorous.
The PARCC tests are high quality, computer-based K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy.
PARCC is based on the core belief that assessment should work as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning.
The assessments are aligned with the new, more rigorous common core standards.
The goal of common core is to ensure that every child is on a path to college and career readiness by measuring what students should know at each grade level.
This test is also said to provide parents and teachers with timely information to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.
"Common core is more rigorous than the old framework, so this means that the assessment will be more rigorous. We have been working diligently to prepare our students for the new assessments. We want them to be successful. Anytime testing instruments are changed then there is usually a decrease in the scores until the children get adjusted to the testing format and the way it is administered," said Thigpen.
Thigpen also believes it is important for children to be taught using the common core standards because it increases rigor.
"If children in the Mississippi Delta leave and attend school in a different state then they will be able to adjust if they are being taught in a setting that uses the same objectives," she added.
According to Mississippi's state board of education, Mississippi and some other states have deployed PARCC tests as a pilot project during the current school year.
Local and state school officials are awaiting the full new testing program in spring 2015.
The Board of Education approved spending about $8.4 million on standardized tests aligned with the new Common Core state standards.
"The state awarded us funds to purchase the necessary instruments needed for the new test. We were awarded a specific amount of money per student, in specific grades," said Thigpen.
"We bought additional computers with the funds that we received. We also taught classes such as Type to Learn so that they would be more familiar with computer skills and knowing how to take a test on the computer," she added.
The federal government gave money to PARCC and another multistate group to help develop tests.
Mississippi will pay $12.50 per Algebra 1 or English 2 end-of-course high school test on computer, and pay $18 per student on paper.
"With the new assessment, we have been given a time frame as to when all of students should have completed the test. All of our students will not be able to take the test at the same time. We will setup scheduling for all grades who are required to take the test," said Thigpen.
"With the time frame that has been given to us, I am certain that we will be able to get everyone in and assessed in a timely manner within this particular timeframe," she continued.
According Thigpen, schools in the Cleveland School District administered practice tests during the last school year.
"We have been training our staff and working with our students on implementing the common core standards. A large part of the test will focus on communication and writing, so we have been implementing and training our staff on how to teach writing to our students," she said.
Thigpen also said along with the new test, teachers would also be evaluated by using a new system.
"There is a part of it that includes student progress; therefore, teachers will still be held accountable for student progress," she said.