Mississippi Down 1, 2, 3 & Out – Lifting Up a Failed System

September 12, 2012 | | Comments 0

By Ray Holt, Graduate Student, University of Mississippi, September 19, 2012

The State of Mississippi is considered last out of all the states in several areas of K-12 education.  This ranking is measured in the fields of English, math, reading, and science.  “… only 11 percent of Mississippi students were ready for college in English, math, reading and science …”  (Associated Press, 2012).  The Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics, who developed the new Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI) ranking system ranked Mississippi last in how well schools are preparing students for science and engineering careers. (Melina, 2011).   The Mississippi Department of Education website says on its home page “At MDE, we work hard to ensure every child in Mississippi has access to the education he or she deserves: one that can lead to a brighter future through a life-long love of learning.”  (MDE, 2012).  Mississippi education is NOT leading to a brighter future and does not create a life-long love of learning.  Since the MDE should know the statistics I can assume they are really saying that Mississippi children deserve the worst.

New programs, new ideas, and new money keep coming to the aid of Mississippi education but none of them seem to lift up this failing system.  What is missing from this failed system is ‘vision’, a quality that money can’t buy.  “‘Appropriating more money in general has not proven to make any change at all in outcomes,’ says Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, a right-leaning independent think tank based in Jackson. Thigpen says it’s up to churches and families to do more to get children ready for school; he would rather see state money spent on improving the current system.” (Willen, 2012).

I am not talking about administrative vision in developing long term programs, nor am I talking about financial visions of creative financing, nor curriculum visions of the all-in-one curriculum.  I am not talking about new buildings and fancy sports fields.  All of these can be defined on paper and create excitement among students and parents. This excitement usually creates a false hope that education is helping the student.  Even if some of these visions are implemented they are not making a difference in the overall educational levels in the state.  Mississippi continues to be last year after year.

The missing vision I am talking about is the vision transferred to students so they realize their possibilities for a future.  Students need to be told they are going to college and that great careers are available to them.  I am talking about exciting students to know history because they can become a great teacher, about biology because they can become a great scientist, about math because they can become a great engineer.  What good is it to study history, science, and math if you cannot see how it will influence or even be a part of your future?

Another area of education where I think Mississippi educators miss the vision is in pre-k readiness. “Mississippi remains the only state in the South — and just one of 11 in the country — that doesn’t fund any pre-k programs.” “Failure to prepare children for kindergarten or first grade costs the state a lot of money. One of every 14 kindergarteners and one of every 15 first-graders in Mississippi repeated the school year in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.” (Willen, 2012).  Many after-school programs run by churches and non-profits attempt to pick up this gap but there are not enough of them to take care of the many under-ready children for kindergarten.“  (Willen, 2012).

“Canton Public Schools superintendent, Dwight Luckett Sr., says he wants to see ‘an all-out campaign’ in underprivileged communities to get students into any type of pre-k classroom. And he would like more outreach to these programs and teachers about what children will be expected to know when they arrive.”   (Willen, 2012).    Somehow we need to have vision big enough to want to have students prepared for school and to want to motivate and encourage them to pursue colleges and careers beyond high school. Motivated students see a purpose for high school and will not drop out and will see a purpose for higher education.


Associated Press. (August 22, 2012).  Mississippi ACT scores remain flat, still worst in the nation. Retrieve from

Melina, R. (July 7, 2011).  States Ranked Best to Worst on Science Education.  Retrieved from

Mississippi Department of Education (MED). Welcome To The Mississippi Department of Education.  Retrieved

Willen, L. (July 27, 2012).  Mississippi Learning: Why the State’s Students Start Behind – and Stay Behind. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from,8816,2120539,00.html#

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