Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Carey M. Wright is excited for the new school year and the opportunities it presents.
Wright released a statement on Wednesday highlighting some of the opportunities and challenges students will face at each level.
"This year we are building upon the unprecedented gains in student achievement with initiatives in the elementary, middle and high school levels," Wright said. "These efforts will further help students prepare for college, the workforce and life."
For elementary students, the Literacy-Based Act will help ensure that students meet grade-level reading standards by the end of third grade, according to Wright. She said that the percentage of third-graders passing the initial reading test required for promotion has increased from 85 percent to 93.2 percent since the law went into effect in 2014.
Starting this year, third-graders will have to reach a higher standard to demonstrate they are ready for fourth-grade reading instruction. According to Wright, prior to this year, third-graders were required to score "above the lowest achievement level, which is the minimal level, for promotion. This year, students must score "above the lowest two achievement levels."
Wright said this is Level 3 on the reading portion of the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program English Language Arts test. Level 4 is considered proficient.
For middle schoolers, students will have to complete an Individual Success Plan by the end of seventh grade. The ISP is a "five-year exploration plan that students complete with the help of a teacher or school counselor," and helps students identify career interests and plan a program of study that aligns with their goals, according to Wright.
Wright said Mississippi will also start offering new opportunities for high school students to make their diploma more valuable. Incoming ninth-graders will have the option to work toward a traditional diploma or additional classes to earn an academic, distinguished academic or career and technical education endorsement.
"The options give students the chance to get the most out of their high school experience," Wright said. Each diploma endorsement option will prepare them to be successful after graduation, whether that be in college, the workforce, or a career and technical training program."
This year's incoming ninth-graders with academic or distinguished academic diploma endorsement from public high schools will automatically qualify for admission into any state public university where they can take credit-bearing courses, according to Wright.
"Also, starting in the fall of 2019, all public universities in Mississippi will award 3 hours of college credit for an Advanced Placement (AP) score of 3 or higher on an AP exam," Wright said. "The universities may provide up to 6 credit hours, per exam, depending on the subject and AP exam for students scoring a 4 or 5."
According to Wright, students that take AP courses this year have the potential to earn college credits from the state's public universities,.
"These initiatives and others that will be rolled out as the school year progresses are all designed to equip students to be successful in achieving their goals, whether that be the next grade, course, college or work," Wright said. "As educators, it is our job to support them, and to continue to give them opportunities to reach their greatest potential."
You can see Wright's full statement below: