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Mississippi Success Story

By Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., State Superintendent of Education
Updated August 21, 2019

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Mississippi students can’t achieve great things. With the help of district and school leaders and dedicated teachers, students are rewriting the story about public education in the state.

We’ve all heard the negative narrative that comes from those who want to paint a bleak picture of public education, but it’s time to change that story – based on facts, not empty rhetoric. The narrative of “failing” Mississippi schools has been told for so long that many people don’t know that Mississippi students and schools are actually succeeding. 

Our success is attracting national attention. The 2018 Education Week Quality Counts report recognized Mississippi as one of the five most improved states in the nation.

While Mississippi has more improvement to make, it is clear that the state’s steady achievements in education demonstrate that substantial progress has been made. The public education community is changing the narrative of what Mississippi students can accomplish with the right supports, higher expectations and bold initiatives.

Mississippi has achieved unprecedented academic success and student achievement is rising every year. Here’s the whole story.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Highlights 2007-2017

  • Mississippi is 2nd in the nation for gains in 4th grade reading

  • Mississippi is 4th in the nation for gains in 4th grade math

  • Mississippi is 7th in the nation for gains in 8th grade math

  • Mississippi is 12th in the nation for gains in 8th grade reading

Early Childhood Education

  • 77 percent of pre-K students in Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELC) met the end-of-year kindergarten readiness score, up from 59 percent in 2015
  • ELC students achieved the highest average score in spring 2018 on the statewide test administered in public pre-K classes to assess whether they are on track to be ready for kindergarten
  • The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) first recognized Mississippi for its ELC program in 2015 as one of only five states that meet all 10 of its quality standards. In subsequent years, NIEER continued to recognize Mississippi as one of only seven states that meet all or most quality standards for pre-K.


Literacy skills among students in pre-K through the 3rd grade have steadily improved:

  • 65.6 percent of kindergarteners met the end-of-year target score in 2019, up from 54 percent in 2015
  • 82.8 percent of 3rd graders passed the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment after their second attempt in 2019, which means the large majority of 3rd graders are meeting the highest reading standard ever required under the Literacy-Based Promotion Act
  • 3rd grade reading pass rate increased for all subgroups, including a 17-percentage point increase for students with disabilities from 2016 to 2017

Student Proficiency

  • English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics proficiency rates increased annually between 2015 and 2019, rising from 32 to 42 percent in ELA and from 27 to 47 percent in Mathematics
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in Mathematics quadrupled from 2016 (15 districts) to 2019 (62 districts)
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in ELA more than tripled from 2016 (14 districts) to 2019 (48 districts)

Advanced Learning and Career Preparation

  • Advanced Placement (AP) participation and achievement (scores of 3 or higher) nearly doubled since 2013
  • African-American students achieving an AP qualifying score of 3 or higher in 2018 increased 10 percent over the previous school year and Hispanic student achievement increased 7.3 percent
  • All subgroups increased AP participation, including a 39.4 percent increase among minority students from 2016 to 2017
  • Participation in dual credit courses more than doubled from 2015 to 2018
  • Number of students completing Career and Technical Education programs increased from 6,912 in 2015 to close to 8,600 in 2018
  • Mississippi’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 84 percent in 2019, almost tied with the national rate of 84.6 percent
  • Graduation rate increased for all subgroups from 2015 to 2018

2017-18 Accountability

  • 29 districts and 281 schools increased their letter grades between 2016-17 and 2017-18
  • 181 schools earned an A in 2017-18, an increase from 114 in 2016-17 
  • 18 districts earned an A, up from 15 the previous year

News Releases About Other Achievements in 2018

Learn More