ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi is seeing improvement across all levels of education, according to an annual progress report released 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
• 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.
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 eight points to 93 percent.
In K-12, 90 percent of seniors in fall 2006 graduated from high school in spring 2007, a larger percentage than in the nation.
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,” 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.”