Dr. Carey Wright

DR. CAREY WRIGHT

Students, teachers and administrators across Mississippi are rewriting the old story of low achievement for public education. A new chapter of unprecedented academic progress has begun.

If you haven’t heard the exciting news, Mississippi is the only state in the nation to show significant increases in three of the four core subjects for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2019. Nationally, scores for most NAEP subjects dropped or remained flat from 2017 to 2019.

NAEP, the only national measure of student academic achievement that’s comparable across all states, validates the historic advancement that Mississippi is making in student learning. That’s right. Mississippi is a leader in public education!

Here are the facts, based on the 2019 NAEP results:

• Mississippi ranks No. 1 in the nation for fourth grade score gains in reading and mathematics. For the first time, Mississippi fourth graders scored higher than the national average in mathematics and tied the nation in reading.

• The percentage of Mississippi students scoring proficient or above on NAEP has increased significantly over the past decade, particularly in fourth grade mathematics, where proficiency levels nearly doubled (22% to 39%).

• Eighth grade students rank No. 3 for growth in mathematics, outpacing the nation’s progress.

• Eighth grade reading held steady as the national average dropped.

• Mississippi students living in poverty are outperforming their peers nationally. Both black and white students from low-income homes in Mississippi achieved higher scores than the national average in all four NAEP subjects. Hispanic students from low-income families outperformed their peers nationally in three of four NAEP tested subjects.

The 2019 results continue Mississippi’s 10-year trend of steady increases on NAEP, as the nation’s scores stagnate. Lifting student achievement doesn’t happen overnight, but through continued commitment to high expectations, we are seeing higher achievement.

Student achievement accelerated more rapidly since 2013, after the statewide implementation of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, higher academic standards with aligned assessments, a strong accountability system, and a significant investment in professional development for educators. The hard work and initiatives put in place are making a difference in students’ lives and opening new doors of opportunities for college and careers.

Better schools also stimulate the development of business and industry, leading to a strong workforce and even stronger economy. We want employers to know that Mississippi’s future workforce is prepared and ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

States are watching what has happened in Mississippi over the last several years. I know because state education chiefs and elected officials in other states have asked me what we are doing to get the gains that we’ve seen. I tell them that Mississippi’s teachers are some of the best education professionals in the nation, and our students are as talented and bright as students in any other state.

Is public education in Mississippi where it needs to be? Not yet. We have to keep adding more chapters to our success story to ensure that all students receive the same opportunity to grow and to achieve. However, we need to celebrate each milestone that leads us to a brighter future, and the NAEP results are indeed worthy of celebration.

I thank teachers, school and district leaders, students, parents and communities who work tirelessly each day to achieve greatly. You are helping to move Mississippi forward, and I join you in celebrating this national recognition of your work.

DR. CAREY WRIGHT is Mississippi’s state superintendent of education. Readers can contact her at 601-359-1750.

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