BILL CRAWFORD: Facts from Mississippi LifeTracks

BILL CRAWFORD

BILL CRAWFORD

The first special report from Mississippi LifeTracks has been published. What, you may be asking, is Mississippi LifeTracks?

It’s a newly established, robust statewide integrated longitudinal education and workforce data system.

Right. So what is it really?

It is a data collection and innovative analysis system operated by the National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) at Mississippi State University that can aggregate data from administrative records that date as far back as 2005 from all education and workforce agencies in the state.

Unh-hunh. So, what does it do?

It gives us access to useful facts about the performance of Mississippi’s schools, community colleges, and universities, and provides statistics on Mississippi’s workforce and economy.

State Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune asked LifeTracks for a report on education majors at Mississippi’s universities. It is LifeTracks’ first special report. It and others to follow will be posted to www.LifeTracks.ms.gov.

The report said an average of 2,013 individuals each year declare education as a major at Mississippi public universities. Of those, 28.7 percent are first-time freshmen and the remaining 71.3 percent are transfer students.

It said an average of 40.4 percent of these students (about 814) graduate with degrees in education within six years and another 15.1 percent (about 304) graduate with degrees in non-education majors.

It said an average of 60.3 percent of education graduates each year (about 490) enter the teaching profession at public or private institutions in Mississippi within five years of graduation; 85 percent of those (about 418) within the first year.

It said that of those who enter the teaching profession in the first year nearly three in four (76.4 percent or about 319) are still teaching after five years.

Those are the facts. LifeTracks does not draw conclusions, just presents facts.

That lets us – not just government agencies or politicians – draw conclusions. For example:

It is significant that over 70 percent of education majors are transfer students. Other sources tell us nearly all of those transfers come from community colleges.

And, it will be hard to overcome our teacher shortage with nearly 60 percent of those who start education programs not completing them.

And, how much personal and public wealth is wasted on the 45 percent of those who enroll as education majors but don’t graduate at all?

A public board governs Mississippi LifeTracks. The board is made up of nine state agency directors, one community college president, the head of a pre-K council, and is chaired by the head of the State Workforce Investment Board, Jay Moon.

It will be interesting to see future reports. I suspect they will delve more deeply into data and yield more interesting facts. Meanwhile, Mississippi now has what the U.S. Department of Education deems as one of the best and most unique data systems in the country.

Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.