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.

Students at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi participate in a mock funeral to protest the university's decision to eliminate several academic programs. (Photo: Jackie Mader/The Hechinger Report)

Poorest states cut what experts say could help the most: higher ed

By Jon Marcus

CLEVELAND, Mississippi—Conor Bell may give up on the Mississippi Delta. Bell is a junior at a public university in the heart of this poorest corner of the poorest state in America—the birthplace of the blues. But the program that drew him here is being shut down. Bell studies journalism, victim of newly announced cuts to […]


In rural Mississippi, optimism for Common Core

By Jackie Mader

LAMBERT, Miss. — It’s early morning in Tyler Corbin’s third-grade math class at Quitman County Elementary, and Corbin is about to teach his students how to divide. He draws 24 stars on his electronic whiteboard, and then draws three circles below them. With the class counting along, he drags stars one at a time into the circles to create three equal groups.

Samaria Stevenson sits outside her office at Davis Elementary School. Stevenson is one of two nurses in the Greenwood Public School District. (Photo by Bryn Stole).

In Mississippi, lack of school nurses a threat to health, education

By Jackie Mader

GREENWOOD, Miss. — On any given day, school nurse Samaria Stevenson is traveling between at least three schools in this rural Delta town. She counts the carbohydrates in lunch for a student with diabetes at one elementary school every day, while providing medical care for students at two others. She teaches health classes and presents the district’s abstinence education curriculum to middle school […]

Report: To lift kids out of poverty, you have to help their parents too

By Kayleigh Skinner

In order to help its many low-income families, Mississippi must focus on aiding the family as a whole and take a “two-generation approach” to ending poverty, a new report says. More than half the state’s children are members of low-income families, a status that has far-reaching consequences beyond poor housing and poor schools. It traps […]

Students at The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science take notes during a science class. Students at the state-funded residential high school have access to laboratory equipment that rivals most colleges. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

Mississippi makes progress preparing students for college, but improvements still necessary

By Kayleigh Skinner

Mississippi has taken important steps to help prepare students for success in higher education, but more needs to be done to address disparities, according to a recently released report. The Blueprint for College Readiness, released last month by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), examined which states adopted policies the commission identified as critical […]


Pipeline to Prison: Special education too often leads to jail for thousands of American children

By Jackie Mader and Sarah Butrymowicz

GRENADA, Miss.— Cody Beck was 12 years old when he was handcuffed in front of several classmates and put in the back of a police car outside of Grenada Middle School. Cody had lost his temper in an argument with another student, and hit several teachers when they tried to intervene. He was taken to […]

Shirlinda Robinson, an English teacher at Oakley Youth Development Center, walks through new standards with her second period class. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

Pipeline to Prison: How the juvenile justice system fails special education students

By Sarah Butrymowicz and Jackie Mader

Caledonia Miss. — Toney Jennings was illiterate when he was arrested at age 16. In the six months he spent at the Lowndes County Jail in Eastern Mississippi, he says he played basketball, watched TV and “basically just stayed to myself.” A special education student, Jennings qualified for extra help in school. Those services should […]

Photo: Jackie Mader

Opportunity gap narrows in Mississippi

By Jackie Mader

The latest national survey that looks at the ability of young people to better their lives through economic opportunity and education comes with some good news for Mississippi: More students are graduating from high school and more people are going to college. But even with these positive measures of upward mobility, the state lags behind […]

Mississippi kindergartners start the year behind, new test finds

By Kayleigh Skinner

JACKSON, Miss. – Two-thirds of Mississippi’s youngest learners are starting the year unprepared, according to results from a new test examining the reading skills of kindergarten students. Kindergartners took the STAR Early Literacy exam during the first month of the current school year to gauge their reading abilities. Over 40,000 students from 144 school districts […]

Kindergarten teacher Haley Stewart teachers reads to her students at Parkway Elementary in Tupelo, Miss. (Adam Robison, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal)

Mississippi’s youngest students pile on the absences, lose learning time

By Kayleigh Skinner and Chris Kieffer

PHILADELPHIA, MISS. – A half hour before school ends each day, a frustrated Tiffany Plott finds herself up against a line of impatient parents who want to pick their kindergarteners up early. As principal of Neshoba Central Elementary School in this rural town, Plott worries about what the littlest learners are missing at a time […]

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