TUPELO • Mississippi showed the greatest improvement in education – ranked 39th in the country, up from a previous ranking of 44 in 2019 – according to new data released in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count 2020 Data Book.
Gains in high school graduation and fourth grade literacy contributed to the rise, the Mississippi Department of Education said in a statement.
Mississippi high school students are more likely to graduate on time now than the previous year, and fourth-graders not proficient in reading improved from 2019, dropping from 73% to 68%.
“This exciting news is the direct results of leaders, teachers, parents and students working collaboratively to lift academic performance in the state and open the doors of opportunity for students,” Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said in a statement. “It also reinforces the success of our national performance in 4th grade math and reading.”
Linda Southward, director of the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi, said that for Mississippi to continue improving, the state must make sure that children and families are provided with services they need during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s more critical than ever for every child to have computers and access to broadband internet. That, along with quality early care and education and more pre-K classrooms are how Mississippi can build on its successes, according to Southward.
“Mississippians are overwhelmingly supportive of giving our children a strong start, but we know it will take everyone working together, across systems and agencies along with public-private partnerships to make positive differences for Mississippi’s children and their families,” Southward said.
The same report ranked Mississippi 49th nationally for overall child well-being, using data from health, education, economic well-being and family and community. It is Mississippi’s first decrease in the overall ranking over the past three years.
Mississippi ranked 47th in economic well-being, 39th in education, 50th in health and 50th in family and community.
The report is based on the latest data available for the indicators used, all prior to 2020. The data doesn’t reflect current conditions during the COVID-19 crisis, but The Casey Foundation said it plans to issue a special report in December focused on data from the pandemic.