New Education Plans, Ambitious Goals for Mississippi

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The Mississippi Board of Education has released a new five-year plan for the coming year that includes a number of ambitious goals including seeing that all high school students in the state graduate.

A previous version of the plan called for the state’s graduation rate to increase to 83%.  Last year 75% of students in the state graduated within four years.

The Community College Board reported that 52% of first-time, full-time college students participating in community college programs in the state were also enrolled in at least one remedial course in 2011.

ACT defines college-ready as receiving a score of 21 on the test.  However, the average ACT score in the state is 19.  The testing organization reported that only 12% of the over 28,000 students in the state to take the exam were considered ready for college in English, math, reading and science.

“It’s much bolder in terms of where we want to take the state,” said state Board of Education Chairman John Kelly, who presented the plan to an audience of state Department of Education employees, local superintendents and others. “When you set goals, I think they should be stretch goals, particularly when you talk about the future of our children.”

Instead of asking that 60% of students are proficient or higher by 2016, the goal has been changed to see that all students in the state are proficient or higher on every state test.  According to last year’s results, about half of third graders in the state tested proficient or higher in reading, and about 75% of eighth graders tested proficient in math.

State officials expect even lower results on the new state tests.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a nationwide exam taken by only a sampling of students in the state, saw only 15% of eighth graders scoring proficient in math.

Other goals include offering high quality access to preschool programs to every child in the state, as well as stocking every school with effective teachers and having those schools use the data currently available to them to effectively improve learning, writes Whitney Argenbright for WDAM.

It is estimated that around 85% of four-year-olds in the state participate in some sort of preschool or child care program.  However, the quality of those programs are unknown.  In a first-time look into kindergarten programs in the state, it was discovered that about two-thirds of five-year-olds in the state are not prepared for kindergarten when they come into the classroom.  The state currently spends $3 million on its program, and recently saw its application for $60 million in federal aid rejected.

“The state’s College- and Career-Ready Standards spell out what we expect students to learn in English language arts and math in grades 3-8 and in high school. We have to be clear about what academic targets we are aiming at in order to help students achieve them,” Kelly said. “We will continue to work to build upon and strengthen these standards to help all students reach their greatest potential.”