Mississippi Succeeds: The Story of Rising Student Achievement

Carey M. Wright, Ed.D.
State Superintendent of Education

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Mississippi students can’t achieve great things. With the help of district and school leaders and dedicated teachers, students are rewriting the story about public education in the state.

We’ve all heard the negative narrative that comes from those who want to paint a bleak picture of public education, but it’s time to change that story – based on facts, not empty rhetoric. The narrative of “failing” Mississippi schools has been told for so long that many people don’t know that Mississippi students and schools are actually succeeding.

Our success is attracting national attention. The 2018 Education Week Quality Counts report recognized Mississippi as one of the five most improved states in the nation.

Mississippi has achieved unprecedented academic success and student achievement is rising every year. Here’s the whole story.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Highlights 2007-2017

  • Mississippi is 2nd in the nation for gains in 4th grade reading
  • Mississippi is 4th in the nation for gains in 4th grade math
  • Mississippi is 7th in the nation for gains in 8th grade math
  • Mississippi is 12th in the nation for gains in 8th grade reading

Early Childhood Education

  • 78 percent of pre-K students in Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELC) met the end-of-year kindergarten readiness score, up from 71 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2015
  • ELC students achieved the highest average score in spring 2017 on the statewide test administered in public pre-K classes to assess whether they are on track to be ready for kindergarten
  • The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recognized Mississippi’s ELCs in its 2015 and 2016 State of Preschool report as one of only six states in the nation that meet all 10 of NIEER’s original quality standards for early childhood education


Literacy skills among students in pre-K through the 3rd grade have steadily improved:

  • 65 percent of kindergarteners met the end-of-year target score in 2017, up from 63 percent in 2016 and 54 percent in 2015
  • 92 percent of 3rd graders passed the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment on their first attempt, up from 87 percent in 2016 and 85 percent in 2015
  • 3rd grade reading pass rate increased for all subgroups, including a 17-percentage point increase for students with disabilities from 2016 to 2017

Student Proficiency

  • English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics proficiency rates increased annually between 2015 and 2017, rising from 27 to 37 percent in Mathematics and from 32 to 35 percent in ELA
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in Mathematics more than doubled from 2016 (15 districts) to 2017 (32 districts)
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in ELA nearly doubled from 2016 (14 districts) to 2017 (22 districts)

Advanced Learning and Career Preparation

  • Advanced Placement (AP) participation and achievement (scores of 3 or higher) nearly doubled since 2013
  • All subgroups increased AP participation, including a 39.4 percent increase among minority students from 2016 to 2017
  • Participation in dual credit courses more than doubled from 2015 to 2018
  • Number of students completing Career and Technical Education programs increased by 13 percent in two years, rising from 6,912 in 2015 to 7,828 in 2017
  • Mississippi’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 83 percent in 2018, just one-point shy of the national rate of 84 percent
  • Graduation rate increased for all subgroups from 2015 to 2018

While Mississippi has more improvement to make, it is clear that the state’s steady achievements in education demonstrate that substantial progress has been made. The public education community is changing the narrative of what Mississippi students can accomplish with the right supports, higher expectations and bold initiatives.

Milestone achievements happen over time, and they are happening now because Mississippi never shrinks back from a challenge, especially when it comes to improving the future of its children.

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