The largely poor and rural state of Mississippi suffers from the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country, along with some of the lowest scores on standardized tests. A legacy of racism and segregation are among the roadblocks that keep the children of Mississippi from reaching their full potential. The Hechinger Report is examining why the children of Mississippi start behind — and stay behind. In the coming months, we’ll report on some of the obstacles, consequences and potential solutions to the state’s woeful education performance, beginning in the critical early years.



Kameisha Smith, now a college student, was paddled three times between the ages of 10 and 14 in Holmes County public schools. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Why are black students being paddled more in the public schools?

By Sarah Carr

LEXINGTON, MISS. — Students in this central Mississippi town quickly learn that even minor transgressions can bring down the weight of the paddle. Seventh grader Steven Burns recounts getting smacked with it for wearing the wrong color shirt; Jacoby Blue, 12, for failing to finish her homework on time; and Curtis Hill, 16, for defiantly […]

Children in the Richton School District, about 20 miles east of Hattiesburg, play on outdated playground equipment. Across Mississippi, educators say that years of underfunding have left them with inadequate facilities and few supplies. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Can voters force Mississippi to cough up cash and fund schools?

By Jackie Mader and Liz Willen

JACKSON, Miss. – Year after year, school officials in this poor and largely rural state say they scramble to stock classrooms with basic supplies like textbooks and pencils. They seek donations from outside groups and wonder if they’ll ever have enough money to hire coaches and classroom assistants. Now, a newly formed group is taking a fresh […]

Spencer's Kiddieland in Indianola, Miss., where nearly 50 percent of children under five live in poverty. (Photo: Kim Palmer)

Private pre-k programs trying to fill gap in Mississippi

By Mary Margaret Halford

In a state where poverty affects tens of thousands of children and education falls to the bottom of national rankings, community leaders know they have to do what they can to improve opportunities for kids across Mississippi.

Jadiel Engstrom, with father Neil, pretends to have a phone conversation with his mother, Carmen DeLeon. (Photo: Kim Palmer)

Report: Both black and white children lag in Mississippi

By Jackie Mader

When it comes to education, health, and economic opportunity, both white and black children in Mississippi are worse off than their peers in nearly every other state, a report and rankings released Tuesday found. White children in Mississippi ranked below all states except for West Virginia, while black children in the Magnolia state ranked below […]

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Are state takeovers fixing Mississippi’s failing districts?

By Jackie Mader

HAZLEHURST, Miss. — When the state took control of the Hazlehurst City school district in 2008, the small rural district was in chaos and suffering from abysmal academic performance. Student folders had gaps where grades and attendance records should have been. District personnel reports listed one employee as holding five different positions, including assistant superintendent, […]

Jennifer Calvert, director of the ABC Pre-School & Nursery Inc. in Aberdeen, Miss., helps a student build a pattern during a morning activity. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Mississippi finally funds statewide pre-K — but only for six percent of its youngest learners

By Jackie Mader

ABERDEEN, Miss.— In the 23 years that Jennifer Calvert has offered preschool for 4-year-olds in this rural town, she has never filled a classroom. Last year, just six students signed up, even though Calvert has room for 19 in her bright, spacious child care center. Calvert said that many families wanted their children in pre-kindergarten, […]

Sixth grade students at Dixie Attendance Center discuss myths during a group activity. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

In rural Mississippi, a district copes with Common Core changes

By Jackie Mader

Mississippi is one of the 45 states that has adopted the education standards known as Common Core. For the first time, students across the county will have the same education goals in math and English. In August, every teacher in Mississippi will teach Common Core. The Hechinger Report’s Jackie Mader visited rural Forrest County to […]

Junior Sierra Mannie discusses her experience as a black student at the University of Mississippi on Feb. 25. (Photo: Kayleigh Skinner)

Soul-searching and frustration at University of Mississippi after statue vandalism

By Kayleigh Skinner

Oxford, Miss. – More than a week after desecration to the statue of civil rights icon James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, students, faculty members and Chancellor Daniel Jones are sharing anger and frustration as the investigation continues without any arrests. “I didn’t really realize what racism was until I got here,’’ Marcus Daniels, […]

James Meredith and Kimbrely Dandridge

Latest racial incident brings pain, sadness for first black female ‘Ole Miss’ student body president

By Kimbrely Dandridge

I never thought that I would meet a historic figure like James Meredith, the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi.

James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals.

Disgust and outrage at University of Mississippi after Meredith statue desecrated

By Kayleigh Skinner

OXFORD, Miss. – Students have been meeting and talking about racism and potential solutions for moving forward following vandalism to a statue of James Meredith on this leafy campus earlier this week.  They’ve left flowers, lit candles and held up signs with slogans like “Respect our school!” and “Equality for All!” On Thursday,according to published reports, three […]

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