Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Ailing Mississippi?

Mississippi is frequently held up as a model of how not to run a state-wide public school system. Throughout the years, the Magnolia State has ranked near the bottom of the list on mathematics and reading, graduation rates, poverty indicators, and perhaps most ignobly, the racial gap in student funding and achievement. 

Liz Willen, editor of The Hechinger Report, wrote a feature for Time magazine exploring the systemic and cultural issues getting in the way of academic improvement and equity, and the affordable solutions that are bubbling up for public policy leaders to consider.

Here is the link to her article.

Here are two particularly striking passages:

  • Carol Burnett, founder and executive director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, says the state faces an even larger obstacle: overcoming long-held attitudes about race. One out of every two black children in Mississippi lives in poverty, compared with 16 percent of white children, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. Burnett says too many people in power don’t want to support public programs “to benefit people whose outcomes they don’t care about.”
  • Nationally, about three-quarters of 4-year-olds attend some type of public or private pre-k program. But experts estimate that fewer than half of Mississippi’s 4-year-olds are in pre-k, most of whom attend federally funded Head Start programs, which target low-income families.”Kids who haven’t been to school don’t interact or participate,” says McNeal kindergarten teacher Cartessia Angrum. “They get scared a lot, and have no concept of the difference between letters and numbers.”