2 Stories That Spotlight Mississippi’s Troubled K-12 Education System

Year after year, Mississippi is always the laughing stock of the K-12 education world. Its students continuously score low on standardized exams, and its graduation rate is abysmal. Don’t just take our word for it. Here are 2 stories that illustrate how troubled Mississippi’s K-12 education system has become.

Mississippi failed to fully fund education in 2015. It’s no secret that education and its funding has never been a top priority in Mississippi. At the beginning of the year, the state ranked dead last in the nation when it came to educational opportunities and success for its students, but that new was not enough to cause a legitimate uproar. It was really just more of the same for my home state, which has grown so accustomed to these types of rankings being the standard that it is almost numb to them.

Case in point: The House Constitution Committee in the state has developed an alternative to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the legislation that calls for full funding of a “mid-level” public education for the state’s K-12 students. Supporters of the group Better Schools, Better Jobs pushed for the Mississippi legislature to pass the original MAEP, but legislators tried to kill it instead.

The MAEP has been around since 1997 but has only been fully funded twice in that time period (both times were election years). Only two groups of legislators felt that the students in Mississippi deserved a “mid-level” education? If that isn’t a rallying cry for education advocates, teachers, and parents alike, I’m not sure what is.

Fully-funding the MAEP is the first step to committing to better educational opportunities for the students of the state. The success of students in Mississippi will not turn around completely overnight, but there needs to be a dedicated effort from lawmakers down to the teachers in the classroom to make that happen. It starts with, at the very least, adequate funding.

Mississippi received poor marks in Education Week’s Quality Counts report. Public education in Mississippi ranked last, yet again, on Education Week’s Quality Counts report that was released in January. The state received an “F” grade for academic achievement and a “D” for the chance of success for students.

The silver lining? Mississippi received a “B” for its early-childhood programs, compared to a national average of “D+.” Mississippi’s early-childhood initiatives are certainly progressive, and the state ranks second nationally when it comes to Head Start enrollment (third nationally when it comes to kindergarten enrollment and access to full-day kindergarten programs). Getting kids signed up for early-childhood programs is just the start, of course. These children need to learn enough while in those classrooms, but getting them started as early as possible is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to the future academic success of students in the state.

There is no easy fix for Mississippi. Even academic programs targeted for at-risk students can only go so far. With a poverty rate of 24 percent in the state, the problems that impact student success in classrooms extend far beyond it. To really see a difference in student outcomes, the state needs economic initiatives that boost the life quality of residents and give more opportunities to students once they are done with school. Recognizing that these outside factors go hand-in-hand with student outcomes in classrooms is the first step toward moving Mississippi out of last place and putting it on course to be a P-12 leader in the country.

How can Mississippi fix its broken education system?

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