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.



The banks of the Mississippi River, as seen from Great River Road State Park in the Mississippi Delta, where there is a dearth of structured activities for children in the summer. (Photo: Nick Chiles)

Are the lazy days of summer killing our nation’s academic progress?

By Nick Chiles

DREW, Miss. ––Drive down a dusty road in the Mississippi Delta in July and you will quickly come across a familiar scene: Kids, walking. Out of the house, no particular destination in mind. Ambling along. But the walking may be better than the alternative: Stopping. It’s the stopping that gets you in trouble. “In the […]

Lynn Gilmore reads to Freedom School students in McComb.

Fifty years later, revamped ‘Freedom Schools,’ still help struggling students

By Kayleigh Skinner

McComb, Miss – When Alana Johnson starts fifth grade at Higgins Middle School on Monday, she may have a leg-up on 10-year-olds who had the summer off. That’s because she spent her days in a modern-day version of Freedom School, an academic enrichment program originally created in the civil rights era to teach history and […]

Student work in the hallway of a Mississippi elementary school shows the “partial product” method of solving a multiplication problem. The new Common Core standards emphasize multiple ways of solving problems. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Huge confusion in Mississippi over Common Core

By Jackie Mader

It’s been called a federal curriculum, the end of literature lessons, and even, here in Mississippi, a “Muslim takeover of schools.” The Common Core, a set of math and English language arts standards that spells out what skills students are expected to master in kindergarten through twelfth grade, will be rolled out in every Mississippi […]

A look at Mississippi’s request to end cheating, with tests included

By Andre Perry

Last week, the Mississippi Department of Education requested $1 million from the state legislature to combat cheating on statewide examinations. The request comes on the heels of alleged cheating systems The Clarion-Ledger wrote about at Clarksdale’s Heidelberg Elementary School earlier this year. Thereafter the state’s education department spent $300,000 to hire Utah-based consultant Caveon Test […]

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 […]

Kiara McPherson and Jeremiah Hilliard, two students at Em Boyd Elementary, work on a science project. Students say they prefer the iPads to the desktop computers that they used to use in class.

In Mississippi schools, access to technology lacking, uneven

By Jackie Mader

CLINTON, Miss.—When Kelsi Collins was first given a laptop last year at Clinton High School, she hesitated to change from years of reading textbooks and writing assignments by hand to researching topics and typing papers online. It didn’t help that, after she’d ignored teachers’ warnings to back up her work, her computer crashed and she […]

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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 […]

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