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### Unveiling the Mississippi Miracle: Debunking Education Rankings

Click on any list ranking states by education quality, and Mississippi will most likely appear at the bottom or near the bottom.

Mississippi, a state grappling with financial and other challenges, has long been characterized as a region with low educational standards.

However, some experts argue that conventional ranking methods do not accurately reflect the state of education in Mississippi.

The Remarkable Progress in Mississippi

State officials, including Governor Tate Reeves, frequently highlight the “Mississippi Miracle,” referring to the significant improvement in literacy rates in the state over the past few decades.

Despite the concept of the Mississippi Miracle, data from various rankings and studies seem to contradict this narrative.

A recent study by Smart Teacher ranked Mississippi 35th among states with the best education systems. The assessment assigned each state a score ranging from one to 100 based on multiple factors, all supported by data from [ppp1].

Mississippi received a score of 36.27 out of 100. The study also revealed that the average resident of Mississippi visits a library only twice a year and the annual high school dropout rate averages at 6.8%.

Further Insights:

Insights from Experts

Jeff Gagne, the director of policy analysis at the Southern Regional Education Board, suggests that other states should consider emulating Mississippi’s approach.

According to Gagne, “They are leading the nation in early grades literacy.”

Gagne noted that the SREB researchers and analysts often refrain from relying on state test scores due to the challenges in comparing scores across different states.

Instead, Gagne emphasized the significance of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which are federally standardized tests.

The NAEP categorizes test takers into four levels: below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced.

In 2017, the SREB revisited NAEP data dating back to 2007.

Gagne, who has extensively studied Mississippi’s education system, highlighted a consistent upward trend in performance.

He stated, “The percentages of students categorized as ‘below basic’ have decreased, while those classified as ‘proficient’ have increased.”

Moreover, Gagne cautioned against labeling this progress as a “miracle,” attributing the improvements to a meticulously planned and diligently executed strategy implemented nearly thirty years ago.

Gagne stressed the importance of data-driven decision-making in policy and practice, commending Mississippi for leveraging data to drive meaningful changes.

The steady progress is credited to initiatives like the Barksdale Reading Institute, which collaborated with the state in 1998, and the efforts of former Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright.

Gagne also highlighted Wright’s achievements, particularly her mandate in 1998 that required colleges of education in Mississippi to include a second early grades preparation reading course for aspiring teachers.

Additionally, Gagne praised Wright for her initiatives, such as contracting professional development services for all experienced teachers in Mississippi.

SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the importance of analyzing local and state data to gauge progress rather than solely relying on rankings.

Pruitt stated, “Mississippi has made significant strides in reading and has garnered national acclaim, serving as a model for other states. This progress signifies continuous growth and improvement, and all states, including Mississippi, have more ground to cover.”

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Prospects for Mississippi’s Ascension in Rankings

If Mississippi continues its current trajectory of improvement, could it potentially climb higher in national education rankings in the future?

The answer is not straightforward.

Gagne suggested that if the current positive trend persists, Mississippi could overcome its stereotypical image. However, the state’s future rankings will heavily depend on forthcoming decisions, especially regarding early education.

Gagne emphasized the importance of leveraging existing knowledge and research-backed strategies, urging policymakers to act on established evidence rather than reinventing solutions.

For news tips, reach out to Mary Boyte at [email protected]