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Editorial by the Mississippi State Board of Education: Mississippi Students Achieve Historic Gains

June 24, 2016

Great things are happening in Mississippi’s public schools, and we now have the data to prove it.

The Mississippi State Board of Education reported at its June meeting that that state’s graduation rate is on the rise, our drop-out rate is declining, and our state’s youngest learners achieved even greater gains than last year.

Upon hearing all of this good news, one Board member remarked, “It’s a good day in Mississippi.” We couldn’t agree more.

Mississippians now have powerful evidence that the education reforms that have been implemented throughout our state are working. This validates the work of all of the students, teachers, school administrators, state leaders and parents who have dedicated themselves to improving student achievement. The news also proves that Mississippi students possess the talent, ability and motivation to reach high academic standards when academic standards and student expectations are raised. Thanks to a lot of people both have occurred.

Here’s how our students ended the 2015-16 school year:

Mississippi’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 80.8 percent, up from 78.4 percent the previous year. At this rate of growth, we could surpass the national rate of 82 percent by next year. Our graduation rate for students with disabilities also increased significantly to 33.6 percent, up from 27.5 percent the previous year.

The state’s drop-out rate fell to 11.8 percent from 12.8 percent the previous year, continuing the downward trend from 16.7 percent in 2011-12. 

In 3rd grade, 87 percent of students passed the 3rd grade reading assessment on their first try, which is an increase from 85 percent last year. Students must pass this test to qualify for promotion to the 4th grade.

For the second year in a row, our Kindergarten Readiness Assessment results showed that the majority of kindergarteners made significant gains during the academic year, with the average statewide score exceeding the previous school year’s score.  

Statewide, 63 percent of kindergarteners met or exceeded the end-of-the-year target score that categorizes them as transitional readers. Students scoring at this level are beginning to read unfamiliar words and easy reader material, but are not yet independent readers. Last year, 54 percent of kindergarteners achieved the transitional reader score.

The assessment of kindergarten readiness among students in the state’s Early Learning Collaboratives show that all 11 collaboratives achieved the target score that indicates students are prepared for kindergarten. At the student-level, 71.4 percent of pre-K students met the target readiness score, which is an increase from 59 percent in 2015.

Do you notice the trend here?

Mississippi students are not only achieving better outcomes, they are improving upon their successes from previous years. This sustained upward trend among so many key indicators of academic achievement is worthy of celebration.

This year’s educational achievements build upon the success of last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In 2015, Mississippi was the only state in the nation with significant gains in 4th grade reading and math.

Mississippi is now receiving positive, national attention for our students’ accomplishments. Educators from around the county are looking to Mississippi to learn what our schools and teachers are doing so they can replicate our strategies in their states. We are more than happy to help them because, our state for so many years found ourselves asking for the same kind of help.

On June 30, the Education Commission of the States will award Mississippi the 2016 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation. This national honor recognizes the outstanding work that Mississippians have done to transform education in our state. We know that Mississippi’s education system is not where any of us want it to be, but all the data indicators are moving in the right direction.

It is more important than ever not to let up on our education reform efforts. Our state’s focus on early childhood education, literacy in pre-K through the 3rd grade and college and career ready standards for all students is making a significant impact on student learning. We must keep up this outstanding work.

We applaud the work of Mississippi students, teachers and district leaders for proving to themselves and to the rest of the country that Mississippians can and will achieve. Gone are the days of low expectations. We are optimistic about the future of public education in our state and are looking forward to our students’ next history-making achievements.

We are proud of our students. It’s a good day in Mississippi.

To learn about the Mississippi State Board of Education’s priorities and goals, visit www.mdek12.org/MBE.

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications
601-359-3706 

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist
601-359-3519