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6/30/2010 - Jackson, Miss.

Mississippi is seeing improvement across all levels of education, according to an annual progress report released today by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).

Significant progress in the state includes:

  • Achieving the largest percentage-point increase in the nation in reading at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Basic Level from 2007 to 2009 among Mississippi’s fourth-graders;
  • Narrowing the achievement gap for Mississippi’s black fourth-graders in reading and black eighth-graders in math on NAEP;
  • Increasing the composite ACT score and the number of students taking the ACT from 1999 to 2009; and
  • Enrolling high school graduates from Mississippi in the state’s postsecondary institutions at a higher rate than U.S. peers.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham attributes the progress to a recently overhauled K-12 curriculum and assessment system designed to meet national standards, and a renewed focus on getting students to graduation day prepared for college and careers.

“The educational gains in this SREB report are evident that we are making sustained progress toward meeting the goals set by the Mississippi Board of Education,” Dr. Burnham said. “The academic expectations for our students have been raised and they are working extremely hard to meet the challenges.”

Mississippi students face significant challenges, according to the report, including generational poverty. In 2008, Mississippi’s poverty rate among children was 12 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds said.

“Our students prove time and time again that when state leaders make sound, data-driven decisions and give our educators at every level the tools they need, they are able to achieve despite any obstacle in their way,” Dr. Bounds said.

Dr. Eric Clark, Executive Director of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, agreed.

“In the 21st century global economy, education at all levels is essential for our citizens to be successful,” Dr. Clark said. “It is no longer an option to be educated – it is a necessity. As the SREB report shows, Mississippi is making major educational improvements that will better the lives of our state’s citizens.”

Average ACT scores increased 0.2 from 1999 to 2009 (each one-tenth of a point on the ACT is considered significant). During the same period, the percentage of Mississippi seniors that took the ACT increased 8 points to 93 percent. Achieving score increases while also increasing the number of students taking the ACT is a significant accomplishment.

In K-12, 90 percent of seniors in fall 2006 graduated from high school in spring 2007, a larger percentage than in the nation. On the NAEP, commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” Mississippi students saw significant progress in the following areas:

  • 4th Grade Reading: 55 percent of students scored at or above the Basic Level in 2009, up 4 percentage points (the largest increase in the nation) from 2007 and 6 points from 2003;
  • 4th Grade Math: 69 percent of students scored at or above the Basic Level in 2009, up 7 percentage points from 2003;
  • 8th Grade Math: 54 percent of students scored at or above the Basic Level in 2009, up 7 percentage points from 2003; and
  • 8th Grade Reading: 62 percent of students scored at or above the Basic Level in 2009, slightly down 3 percentage points from 2003.

Still, there are areas that need work. The state's graduation rates and overall degree-completion numbers need improvement, a policy issue state leaders worked on last year through the Graduation Rate Task Force which was established by the Mississippi Legislature in the 2009 session. NAEP scores still trail the nation in most areas, and there are still large achievement gaps for minority and low-income students.

“If children are not prepared early on in their educational career, it is likely that they will not be prepared to graduate from high school or lead a successful, productive adult life,” Dr. Burnham said. “Celebrating progress, eliminating disparity and growing our state economy depends on the ability of our educational systems at all levels continuing to work together.”

Click here to access the full report.


Contact: Pete Smith, MDE Director of Communications, (601) 359-1336; Leah Rupp Smith, IHL Director of Communications, (601) 432-6333; Kell Smith, SBCJC Director of Communications, (601) 432-6734

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