Understanding District and State Testing in Mississippi uses field research on testing practices in four diverse Mississippi school districts to determine how many tests Mississippi students take and how much time they spend taking those tests. It also describes common school district testing practices, such as how testing is conducted and how tests are used in the districts.

Mississippi First wrote this report to bring much-needed research and analysis to a debate mostly characterized by impassioned anecdotes. The report offers several eye-opening general and comparative findings. Report highlights include the following:

  1. In 2014-2015, students spent an average of 7 hours, 53 minutes—less than 1% of a 180-day school year—taking state tests.
  2. Students took more district tests than state tests in every district we studied, but they sometimes spent less time on district testing than on state testing.
  3. Test completion hours do not reflect all the time schools devote to standardized testing.
  4. Low-performing districts in our sample administered more tests and spent more time testing than high-performing districts.
  5. Low-performing districts prioritized test prep over content instruction for at least 25% of their instructional year.


*The Sunset tests labeled “ELS” have been re-labeled “District” to better reflect the fact that these tests were created by the district using ELS tools. They are not the same as ELS’s subject-area benchmarks.