HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Mississippi Department of Education
The annual Education Week Quality Counts report gave Mississippi a "D" in K-12 education based on average grades for three key performance indicators – Chance for Success (D+), School Finance (D+) and K-12 Achievement (F) – placing Mississippi last in the nation. The country's overall average grade is "C."
However, the state received a high mark for early childhood education efforts, a new index featured in the 2015 report. Mississippi earned a "B" for early childhood education enrollment compared to a "D+" for the nation. The Early Education Index analyzed preschool enrollment, availability of full-day preschool programs, Kindergarten enrollment, and the number of students attending full-day Kindergarten. Mississippi ranked second nationally for Head Start enrollment and third nationally for Kindergarten enrollment and availability of full-day Kindergarten, which boosted the state's grade.
"It's good evaluators looked at enrollment numbers but it is equally important that the programs for those children are of high quality, which is a priority of the Mississippi Board of Education," Wright said.
The 2015 annual "State of the States" report ranks states on a range of key state indicators and awards letter grades for states and the nation. The 19th edition is different from years past in that evaluators focused on three areas when scoring states as opposed to a wider range of education indicators. Summative grades from those past reports are not directly comparable to those issued this year, according to the Education Week Research Center.
"This well-respected national report highlights the fact that the Mississippi Board of Education is on the right track with its five-year strategic plan to improve educational opportunities for all students. We will continue to push for reforms that keep standards for learning high, improve graduation rates, increase access to high-quality early childhood programs and support effective teachers and school leaders," said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.
A closer look at the K-12 education indicators in each category shows areas for improvement for the state's, the Mississippi Department of Education, educators, and communities. The state's lowest score was for the K-12 Achievement Index, which incorporates achievement levels and gains in math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), high school graduation rates and performance on advanced placement (AP) exams.
Mississippi's 2013 NAEP scores for 4th and 8th grade reading and math were well below the national average, ranging from 20 percent of 8th graders proficient in reading to 26 percent of 4th graders proficient in math. While the state had small gains in achievement in those areas since 2003, Mississippi still lags the nation, which also had proficiency rates below 45%.
"Our students' academic performance compared to other states is of high interest to business and industry looking to locate to Mississippi. The Board and I believe that education is an economic driver, and companies want a prepared workforce," Wright said. "We will do our best to raise the quality of education in the state."
The K-12 Achievement Index also noted that 3.9 percent of Mississippi students who took an AP exam scored a passing grade of 3 or higher compared to 25.7 percent nationwide. As a result of the state's overall educational performance, evaluators gave Mississippi an "F," the lowest score in the nation.
"We know that many factors influence student achievement, and we hope the leadership in our state and communities will make decisions that will provide better opportunities for students to take advanced placement courses," Wright said.
The final category in the report looked at equity and spending indicators, such as adjusted per pupil expenditures based on regional cost differences, amount of disparity in spending, the relationship between district funding and local property wealth, and state expenditures on K-12 schooling. Mississippi received a "D+" and the nation earned a "C."
"Overall, we can certainly identify areas in this report we can address, and the Board will continue to create policies and use resources to encourage high levels of student achievement," Wright said.