Mississippi receives award for educational improvements

Published 10:10 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Education Commission of the States has announced Mississippi as the 2023 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation recipient in recognition of the state’s laudable improvements in academic achievement among K-12 students.

In 2013, Mississippi was ranked 50th in K-12 achievement, according to Quality Counts, a national ranking. Since then, it has climbed to 35th, and state leaders credit two pieces of legislation for fueling the improvements: The Early Learning Collaborative Act, which established the first state-funded pre-K program, and the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which made reading instruction a major focus in K-3.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act allocated funding for communities, including school districts, Head Start sites, child care centers and nonprofits, to establish or expand high-quality early childhood education programs. The law provides a 1:1 state tax credit up to $1 million for participating individuals or corporations. The students who participate in programming at these collaboratives now have the highest kindergarten readiness scores in the state, and they have risen from 59% readiness in 2015 to 65.1% readiness in 2022.

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The Literacy-Based Promotion Act provides $15 million annually to build the capacity of K-3 teachers and school leaders to effectively teach reading and monitor student progress. The MDE hires and assigns literacy coaches to schools where data show students struggle the most with reading. MDE also provides training on the science of reading to administrators, educator preparation program faculty, teachers in pre-K through third grade, and K-8 special education teachers. From 2015 to 2018, the passing rate for third-grade reading rose from 85% to 93%. When the passing score was raised in 2019 to bring it closer to proficiency, 86% of students met the higher standard. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Mississippi’s ranking for fourth grade reading scores rose from 50th in 2013 to 21st in 2022.

“The hard work of teachers, administrators and support staff, along with legislation, continues to lead to great outcomes for Mississippi students,” said Mike Kent, interim state superintendent of education. “This award is a resounding affirmation of our collective efforts and a strong endorsement of the effective policies and strategies that are improving student achievement in Mississippi.”