Mississippi in top five most improved

By TIM BEELAND,

An interesting press release popped up in my email “inbox” Monday from the Mississippi Department of Education. “Education Week’s Quality Counts: Mississippi Top Five Most Improved State for Chance-for-Success,” read the headline, which of course peaked my interest.

We get so many emails that more often than not place Mississippi in the bottom of nearly every category, except charitable giving where we constantly excel. We’re good people and the rest of the nation should take note.

But, when it comes to education, most of time the national comparisons aren’t as flattering, especially when it comes to things like teacher salaries and dropout rates. The good news is that we are working on improving both of those.

This latest press release, though, explains that for the second time in two years, “Mississippi earned recognition as one of the five most improved states in the Quality Counts report that examines achievement in school systems from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and socio-economic factors leading to success in adulthood.”

The report states that Mississippi gained 6.2 points in the Chance-for-Success Index, improving its grade from a D-plus in 2008 to a C in 2020.” That D-plus part kind of knocked the wind out of the sails but improving is improving and moving up is always better than dropping back. Plus, in my book, a C usually means average and the report goes on to state that the national average is only a C-plus. So, we’re pretty close to the National average.

The report states advances in family income, parental education levels, parental employment, 4th grade reading, and 8th grade math contributed to the state’s success.

“The nation earned a C+ in this category, with a score of 79.2 out of 100 possible points. Mississippi earned a C, 73.9 out of 100 points,” the press release continues.

“This evaluation of the hard work of our students, teachers and leaders proves that Mississippi is making significant progress in lifting student achievement,” Dr. Carey Wright, superintendent of education, is quoted. “We are leading the nation for gains in education because of our laser-like focus on improving opportunities for children.”

Laser-like?

Dr. Wright has yet to impress me especially since one of the press releases we received in years past places her at the top of a national list. That list puts her as the highest paid amongst all superintendents in the United States. In 2017 her $300,000 plus annual paycheck bested all others and I assume it still does, but regular readers of this column know I’ve whined about that multiple times in the past so I’ll let you off the hook this time and get back to the Education Week report. Not guaranteeing I won’t come back to that topic in the future, though!

According to the release, the Quality Counts report “evaluates the nation and the states on 13 family, school, and socio-economic markers from the early years and K-12, into adulthood and the working world. This index, according to EdWeek’s Research Center, ‘focuses on the underlying conditions in states, schools, and households that affect whether children get what they need to become successful adults as they move through the educational pipeline into the post-school phase of their lives.’”

This report will be followed in June by top-to-bottom rankings and analysis of school finance, and in September by the K-12 Achievement Index and the annual ranking of the states and the nation.

We’ll talk about all this again at that point, if not before. Told you I’d be back!