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.



Advocates of early childhood education are surprised by new legislation that could bring state-funded pre-k to Mississippi for the first time. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

Preschool access, teacher quality focus of new education plan for Mississippi

By Kayleigh Skinner

JACKSON – Mississippi will focus on boosting access to high quality preschool programs and increasing quality of teachers and leaders by 2020, according to a five-year plan released Thursday by the State Board of Education. The plan, which was detailed by Chairman John Kelly at a press conference, also aims to make all students proficient […]

Jennifer Calvert, director of the ABC Pre-School & Nursery Inc. in Aberdeen, Miss., helps a student build a pattern during a morning activity earlier this year. Educators say early education is critical to fix Mississippi’s education deficiencies. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Why did Mississippi lose out on preschool funding — again?

By Jackie Mader

Mississippi’s flawed application and underdeveloped plans to provide preschool for all children is partly to blame for why the state’s youngest learners were bypassed once again for federal funds that could have provided a boost to early education, a review found. Last week, Mississippi was passed over for a preschool grant that would have tripled […]

Enterprise Attendance Center Principal Shannon Eubanks says the suggestion to drop Mississippi’s standards is “political pandering.”. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Eubanks)

Mississippi principal predicts ‘chaos’ if state drops Common Core

By Kayleigh Skinner

Earlier this month, Mississippi’s Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves spoke out for the first time against the Common Core state standards, which Mississippi adopted in 2010 along with 44 other states and Washington, D.C. Reeves said that the state should create its own “task force” to create new, better standards. Gov. Phil Bryant responded with a […]

Charlotte McNeese, a kindergarten teacher at Ann Smith Elementary in Ridgeland, teaches her students how to write a sequence of events in a lesson last year. With the new Common Core standards, teachers say students are learning more challenging concepts at an earlier age. (Photo: Jackie Mader)

Educators question future progress if Mississippi backs away from Common Core

By Kayleigh Skinner and Jackie Mader

JACKSON, Miss. — Educators across Mississippi say the already-lagging state will “move backwards” if Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves throw out the Common Core academic standards and create new ones. On Monday, Reeves said that the Obama administration is using the standards to “hijack” states’ educational autonomy — despite the fact that […]

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Mississippi, let parents have information about child care centers

By Hechinger Report

When it comes to making decisions about child care, parents in Mississippi don’t have many facts about the quality of centers other than a star-rating system in which participation is voluntary. But more detailed information about all of the 1,757 state-licensed child care programs does exist. Mississippi Department of Health officials inspect each center at […]

Timothy Abrams

How will my Mississippi Delta students succeed in college if they can’t understand what they read?

By Timothy Abram

Ninety-eight percent of the people who work in my occupation are different than me: I fall in the less than 2 percent of teachers who are black males. I am from Mississippi, a state perpetually plagued by its scholastic underperformance, where I recently graduated from the University of Mississippi and was accepted into Teach For […]

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 […]

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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 […]

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