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.



Leroy Clemons, president of the Neshoba County, Mississippi branch of the NAACP, gives a tour of Freedom Summer sites, including this memorial to slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.  (Photo: Liz Willen)

Willing to die for justice? Comparing post-Katrina student activism to Freedom Summer

By Andre Perry

­Two of the most significant student movements in the United States occurred in Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans – separated by less than a three hours’ drive and fifty years. En masse, high school students and coeds migrated to these cities leading up to Freedom Summer of 1964, and they came in the years immediately […]

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The Common Core difference, from a teacher’s perspective

By Taylor McGraw

In 2012 I moved from Mississippi to New York City to teach at a charter elementary school in Harlem. My 27 fifth grade students had reading levels ranging from third to eighth grade. They grew up speaking 14 different languages in their homes, which were scattered from the far reaches of Brooklyn to the South Bronx. I had spoken word poets, Lego masters, dancers, and chess fiends. One gave me a hug every hour, on the hour. Others had to be coaxed into speaking.

Sen. David Blount (D - Jackson) discusses education funding.

Senator calls for Mississippians to sign petition for fully-funded education

By Kayleigh Skinner

JACKSON, Miss. — Members of the Jackson community gathered on July 9 to push forward discussions about fully funding public education in Mississippi. State Senator David Blount (D–Jackson), who led the discussion at the Arts Center of Mississippi, called funding public schools a “constitutional obligation.” The event, organized by Jackson 2000, a nonprofit, focused on […]

Ravi Gupta is the founder of Reimagine Prep, the first charter school approved in Mississippi. The school plans to open for the 2015-2016 school year in Jackson, Miss. (Photo courtesy Ravi Gupta)

Q & A with charter school founder Ravi Gupta: ‘We are the opposite of what people fear’

By Kayleigh Skinner

Four years ago, Ravi Gupta started the Nashville Prep School with a mission. He wanted to improve education opportunities for parents and children in Tennessee, so he created a charter school as a part of RePublic Schools, a movement to reimagine public schools in the South. Today, Nashville Prep is one of the highest performing […]

Children in the Greenwood School District learn about the Summer Food Service Program during a June kick-off event.

In Mississippi, food gap widens during summer

By Jackie Mader

Each summer, millions of Mississippi’s children rely on the federal Summer Food Service Program to provide up to two nutritious meals a day. It’s a small solution to a larger problem in Mississippi, where many of the most rural parts of the state lack access to healthy foods. Jackie Mader reports on the challenges and […]

Neshoba County branch NAACP president Leroy Clemons lays a bouquet on the memorial of slain civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss. (Photo: Kayleigh Skinner)

In Mississippi, summer program attempts to fill gap in civil rights education

By Jackie Mader

PHILADELPHIA, Miss.—Twenty-seven teenagers from across Mississippi piled off a tour bus on Rock Cut road.It’s 91 degrees. The sun is blazing. Fifty years ago, three young civil rights workers were murdered here by the Ku Klux Klan. The nation was transfixed by these murders and many say they provided the impetus to push the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress. But most of the teenagers on today’s tour say they knew nothing about this history.

Report: Better health and child care could mean more Mississippi college graduates

By Kayleigh Skinner

Women attending Mississippi’s community colleges struggle to graduate on time, often because they are beset by a lack of child care options and insufficient financial aid, according to a recent report. Nationally, just 56 percent of women earn a degree in six years or less according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy […]

Marian Wright Edelman and Walt McDonald watch Todd Belcore address the audience about what Mississippi can do to improve education. (Photo: Kayleigh Skinner/The Hechinger Report)

Fifty years after Freedom Summer, Mississippi schools still lag behind

By Kayleigh Skinner

Freedom Summer organizer Bob Moses came to Mississippi 50 years ago, leading the historic voter registration drive for blacks. On Thursday, the civil rights icon was back with a new passion: Improving education. “We are a country lurching backwards on the issue of education,’’ Moses said during a panel discussion at Tougaloo College. “For the […]

Field directors Charles Taylor and Amber Thomas explain how the ballot initiative works to the audience. (Photo: Kayleigh Skinner/The Hechinger Report )

Ballot initiative calls for making fully funded education in Mississippi a right

By Kayleigh Skinner

If Mississippi is going to move past its troubled history, it will take a renewed focus on education — and better funding of its public schools, advocates said Tuesday. Volunteers, parents and youth who gathered in a small, cool chapel at Tougaloo College emphasized the importance of better funding as part of a Freedom Summer […]

Left: A young Roy DeBerry poses for his high school graduation picture. DeBerry was 15-years-old when he became a Freedom School student in 1964. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Devine with Freedom's Children) Right: Roy DeBerry, currently the executive director of the Hill Country Project, will soon join the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation to help educate students about the civil rights movement. (Photo courtesy of Aviva Futorian)

Q & A with original freedom school student Roy DeBerry: ‘You need to know about the past’

By Kayleigh Skinner

Roy DeBerry was one of the first to attend Mississippi’s so-called Freedom Schools as a teenager in Holly Springs in 1964. More than 40 of these schools were set up that year to encourage black residents of all ages to become politically active in their communities, and to help educate children on racial inequality in […]

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