Mississippi’s rankings at or near the bottom of the U.S. on a recent survey of the nation’s education systems is both troubling and challenging, and unfortunately it is not surprising given our state’s long history of an incomplete, uneven effort to address all the factors in student achievement and school adequacy.
As Daily Journal education writer Chris Kieffer reported last week, Mississippi ranked in the bottom six in the three categories measured in Education Week’s 18th annual Quality Counts rankings. It’s important to look at all the rankings and see that the low grades included important factors beyond classroom and in-school performance like school finance.
• Mississippi received an F in the “K-12 achievement” category and ranked 51st in the country, including the District of Columbia. The “K-12 achievement” index examines 18 indicators, including the percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade students scoring proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, gains and achievement gaps from that test, graduation rate and Advanced Placement scores. The achievement gap factor is influenced by race, family income and educational attainment in the family.
• Mississippi scored a D-plus in “chance for success,” a measure that took into account the impacts of factors like a high poverty rate, which is best solved by higher educational attainment leading to better jobs. The index is based on 13 indicators that span a person’s life from cradle to career, and includes family income, parent education, preschool and kindergarten enrollment, school performance, adult educational attainment and median annual income. All those categories in some are problematic in our state because of historic inadequacies and a long history of segregation, with all its baggage.
• Mississippi ranked 49th and got a D in “school finance,” a chronic problem at the local and state levels despite enactment of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is regularly deeply underfunded.
In 2012, Mississippi received an A in the accountability category and ranked 10th best. It received a C for transitions and alignment (36th) and a D for teaching profession (41st).
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright made the correct stand on the outcomes: “I view the results as motivation to stay the course in improving education in this state.” Public support for an even, unified effort across the board is key in overcoming gaps and under-achievement. Our state has no choice except to improve.