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

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).

Students Can Become Lifelong Learners While Learning Their Required Content

by Ray Holt, Graduate Student,  University of Mississippi,  September 12, 2012

“Teaching students how to learn and study throughout life is more important than how much information they learn in your class”.  This statement makes the assumption that it must be one or the other. That we cannot teach the required material while at the same time teaching our students to become lifelong learners.  I do not think it has to be one or the other if the teacher uses the teaching skills that can teach content while reinforcing lifelong learning skills.

There are three pitfalls that prevent teachers from “guiding students to become responsible for their own learning.” [George, 2011].  These pitfalls are: 1) teachers assume students will be able to identify important information and take useful notes, 2) teachers assume students know how to study, and 3) teachers assume students understand the link between studying and academic performance.

Mississippi Learning: Why the State’s Students Start Behind — and Stay Behind

By Liz Willen, The Hechinger Report at

In Mississippi’s Rankin County, as in the rest of the state, a lack of school readiness is evident the minute children walk in on their first day of kindergarten. Kaye Sowell

CANTON, Miss. — When school begins next month in Mississippi, Akeeleon Lewis will head to kindergarten for the second time. He started school last fall not knowing his colors or numbers.

“He couldn’t even hold a pencil,” says Judy Packer, his kindergarten teacher at McNeal Elementary School in Canton, a city of 13,000 about 30 miles northeast of the state capital in Jackson.

Akeeleon was one of about 10 percent of kindergarteners kept back at McNeal when the school year ended in May, a rate twice the national average. Before he arrived at McNeal, he hadn’t played much with children his age or ever set foot in a classroom.

Thirty years after Mississippi established statewide kindergarten and made school attendance compulsory starting in first grade, classroom readiness remains a major obstacle to student success in this state, which has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country and test scores that are consistently among the nation’s worst.

Although neighboring states have made great strides in early education, Mississippi remains the only state in the South — and just one of 11 in the country — that doesn’t fund any pre-k programs. Researchers have found that high-quality pre-k programs can improve long-term outcomes for low-income children and help close an achievement gap for minorities that tends to worsen over time. Being able to stand in line, listen to directions or make eye contact with the teacher play in an important role when it comes time to try to teach kids how to read and write. And a lack of school readiness is evident the minute children walk in on the first day of kindergarten, says Kaye Sowell, who has taught for 30 years in Rankin County. “I’ve had to chase children into the street,” she says. “I have kids who don’t know their given name and can’t recognize it in print. They can’t go through the lunch line without holding it up. You can’t fathom it unless you’ve lived it.”

(Read “Is Online Teacher Training Good for Public Education?”)

Mississippi ACT scores remain flat, still worst in the nation

The Mississippi Press:  Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 9:01 PM     Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 9:10 PM The Associated Press
JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi’s ACT scores remained the worst in the nation last year, despite an increasing number of students taking courses that are supposed to prepare them for college.

The testing organization, based in Iowa City, Iowa, says that only 11 percent of Mississippi students were ready for college in English, math, reading and science, compared to 25 percent of students nationwide. That’s up from 9 percent of Mississippi students who scored college-ready marks in all four subjects in 2008, compared to 22 percent nationwide.

In contrast to that modest improvement, the state average on the test is 18.7 this year, down from 18.9 in 2008. The national average has stayed level at 21.1.

School bullies ID’d – the teachers union! (Voucher Fight)

Private schools intimidated for participating in legislature-approved voucher program.  by Dave Tombers

While teachers unions across the country routinely may challenge school voucher programs in court, the teachers union in Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) has developed a new tactic – bully the schools that accept the vouchers.

The American Federation for Children – the nation’s voice for school choice which is dedicated to empowering families with the ability to take charge of K-12 education choices for their children – today condemned the actions of the LAE.

In a prepared statement, the federation alleges the LAE is bullying small, private schools.

The Louisiana Board of Education shares the federation’s disgust and urges the bullied schools to “ignore the LAE’s absurd actions.”

Private schools in Louisiana received letters this week from Brian Blackwell of the Blackwell & Associates law firm, which represents the state teachers union.

Why higher education is getting left behind

By | July 26, 2012, 6:03 PM PDT

With more than a trillion dollars in outstanding student debt in the U.S. and ever-increasing tuition costs some feel it’s time for higher education to make significant changes. Apart from the financial burdens, there is pressure for academe to embrace the new domain of online learning, which is rapidly gaining ground.
Jeffrey Selingo is the vice president and editorial director at the Chronicle for Higher Education, and is currently working on a book about the future of higher education in the U.S. He feels that academic institutions failed to foresee the economic and technological disruption that swept nearly every other industry between 1999 and 2009. And now schools forced to face the outcome: Financially-needy students who learn in entirely new ways because of technology and the adoption of mobile devices.Will universities and colleges want to meet the challenge and embrace an overhaul of a very conservative system? SmartPlanet spoke with Selingo about what happened in the last decade, what may be required in the coming decades. Specifically we discussed the new business of online academic structures that signal one possible future for schools.

: You’ve said, “University leaders desperately need to transform how colleges do business.” And that higher education has “lost a decade,” specifically the years between 1999 to 2009. Can you explain what you mean by lost a decade?

Jeffrey Selingo: Between 1999 and 2009 there was a huge run-up in the number of students participating in higher education. This was fueled by a boom in the number of eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds in the population at that point.