By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Mississippi’s schools must do things differently if they want to get different results, Carey Wright said on Monday.
The new state superintendent of education was the keynote speaker at Monday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Tupelo. Her remarks focused on the need to expand early childhood offerings, to raise academic standards and to enhance career and technical programs. She also outlined statistics about the state’s educational struggles.
“We need to be open and honest about where we are if we intend to change that,” she said.
Wright said she wants all students to have access to a high-quality early childhood program that prepares them for kindergarten not only academically but also socially and emotionally. That doesn’t mean it would be mandatory, she said, but that all parents would have that option for their children.
That would include programs for 3- and 4-year-old children with high-quality teachers trained to know and meet the needs of those children. They would introduce students to literacy and also teach them skills like sharing, controlling their behavior and taking turns.
“For me, it is providing that kind of program across the state for all children,” she said.
Wright touted the Common Core State Standards, stressing that they set the bar high for students but that local school districts still have control over how they meet the goals set by the benchmarks.
“You need employees who can think critically, solve problems and communicate effectively,” she said. “That is what you do every day, and that is what you need your future employees to do.”
Districts need to expand their Advanced Placement courses, she said, even if that means offering them virtually or combining with other school districts. They also should add more dual enrollment/ dual credit courses that allow students to earn college credit while in high school.
At the same time, she said, schools also should prepare those who do not go to college with the skills and knowledge they need to join the workforce.
“An academically strong career and technical education can have a tremendous impact on students and on the Mississippi economy,” she said.
Money is not the only answer, she said, but added that Mississippi must fund public education at a level that can reach high expectations.
“It is going to take more money for pre-school education,” she said. “It will take more money to make sure teachers are getting the training they need to provide high-quality education.”
In the video below, Wright expounds on a couple of her talking points.