By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mississippi schools are doing better than they’re given credit for, but there is still a huge gap in preparing students to compete in the global market.
“You raised the bar; my hat is off to the state of Mississippi,” even though that has meant fewer children have high scores, said Bill Daggett, the chief executive of the International Center for Leadership in Education.
He spoke to more than 600 Lee County and Tupelo educators gathered for Industry Education Day.
“No other state has raised their definition of proficiency more than the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Across the country, graduation rates have increased over the past five years, but the pace of change in technology is rapidly outpacing the rate of school improvement.
“You are doing better, but the skill gap has never been larger,” Daggett said.
In the past decade, the literacy requirements for high school college preparation and college have remained stable, but the literacy levels needed for entry-level jobs and adult life skills have increased dramatically.
“You’ve got to prepare the kids for the world they’re going to live in,” Daggett told the educators.
Daggett’s New York state-based center has studied rapidly improving schools. Common denominators included cultures of high expectations and willingness to depart from the status quo.
One of the common practices was looping – where teachers stay with the same class, usually for a two-year period.
“It’s easier to learn for the kindergarten teacher to learn first grade (curriculum) than learn 25 new students,” Daggett said, and it nearly eliminated the summer learning loss.
Guntown Middle School language arts teacher Adrienne Simmons, who taught overseas at a school for U.S. military personnel before moving to Mississippi, has seen looping work well. Her students were usually at least a grade level ahead when they moved back to the states.
“He hit the nail on the head,” Simmons said.
Teachers said they left the event sponsored by the Community Development Foundation with a sense of inspiration and urgency.
“I know we have a lot of work to do, but I was encouraged that we are on the right track,” said Sherry McGaughy, a language arts teacher at Milam Elementary School.