OUR OPINION: Education challenges require united effort

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.

In summary:

• 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.

  • charlie

    If Jackson really wanted to improve education in Mississippi they would fully fund it, give teachers a nice raise, let their state superintendent run it, and stay out of the way with their own agendas.

    • TWBDB

      Charlie, I’ve always been struck by the title ‘Mississippi Adequate Education Program': way to set the bar low to begin with, then underfund it.

  • vicki

    The state of MS gets out of education exactly what they put
    into it…nothing; an unfortunately children are the ones who suffer. In every profession
    there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction an employee work
    performance. MS teachers haven’t gotten a raise in over five years; even grocery
    store clerks get yearly raises. The salary for MS teachers is at least
    $12,000 lower than neighboring TN and AL. Ironically, although MS has one of
    the lowest teaching salaries, it has one of the longest school years (start
    date & end date). What can MS
    teachers do; it’s illegal to go on strike? Most teachers can’t afford to stop
    working, so they continue to teach, with minimal effort; this is especially
    true for teachers who have to supplement their teaching salaries with part-time
    jobs. Imagine if you worked somewhere
    and knew that no matter how well you did, you wouldn’t be compensated for your
    effort. Granted, verbal praise, public recognition and self-fulfillment are
    wonderful; however they do not pair well with increased cost of living. Also,
    imagine if your only option to increase your salary was to get a graduate
    degree accompanied by student loan debt? If a person is struggling to sustain
    cost of living increases, it doesn’t matter how much they love their job…work
    performance will suffer. Where else in the country have teacher salaries
    actually decreased over the past few years besides MS? As the saying goes, you
    get what you pay for!

  • Kurt

    How does paying teachers more money make them better teachers? Obviously they are failing to teach the kids now, so how would paying them more money help? I have no issue paying those that can teach but the problem is that these teachers have failed but they keep their jobs and complain about the money. Teachers in MS make more than the median household income and many make almost as much as the median family of 4 income.