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12/16/2009 - Jackson, Miss.

Mississippi lags far behind the rest of the nation in the educational attainment level of its citizens, according to a report adopted today by a legislative task force.

To close the gap, the Graduation Rate Task Force is recommending that the state set specific goals to move Mississippi's educational attainment to the national average by 2025. Reaching that goal will require better coordination between educational agencies, more support for education from key stakeholders, and the implementation of best practices proven to improve retention, persistence, and completion of college degrees.

The Task Force, established by the Mississippi Legislature during the 2009 session, has met monthly since June to study and report on graduation rates in the state's public four-year and two-year postsecondary institutions.

"Education is tied to every important quality of life issue from income levels to health to economic development. In order to move Mississippi forward, we must graduate more students from our schools and institutions at every level," said Senator Doug Davis, co-chair of the Task Force.

Representative Kelvin Buck, co-chair of the Task Force, agreed.

"Even in difficult economic times, we must continue to focus on providing more opportunities for Mississippians to receive a quality education. Implementing the recommendations that have come from the work of this important task force will help us do that," Buck said.

Specific recommendations in the report, which will be submitted to the Legislature this month, include:

  • Establishing a state level Education Achievement Council to sustain attention to this agenda, establish long-term goals and benchmarks, and publish an annual report card;
  • Aligning K-12 with career-ready and college-level learning expectations;
  • Ensuring developmental education is a statewide priority;
  • Creating a seamless transition process from community and junior colleges to institutions of higher learning, and a seamless credit transfer process between the community and junior colleges and institutions of higher learning;
  • Building in funding incentives for institutions to improve retention and graduation;
  • Developing a statewide plan for retention, persistence, and completion institution by institution; and
  • Implementing student success best practices and programs within each institution.

The Task Force consists of representatives of the Mississippi Legislature, the Governor's Office, the State Institutions of Higher Learning, Mississippi's Community and Junior Colleges, the Mississippi State Board of Education, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and the Mississippi Economic Council.

To view the full report or other information relating to the Graduation Rate Task Force, including meeting minutes and presentation information, visit www.ihl.state.ms.us/graduation/.


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