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“Most teachers claim we can’t learn because we don’t have resources like books.” –Eustace Apolonio, high school student in Indianola, Mississippi.

“I would want people to know, at my school, we have big goals.” – Jada, a third grader in the Mississippi Delta.

Children in Mississippi face some of the toughest obstacles in life and education from the time they are born: high child poverty rates, schools that lack funding and supplies, and a revolving door of teachers in the classrooms that need teachers the most. Yet none of these issues are exclusive to Mississippi. The Magnolia state is instead a microcosm of America’s toughest problems in education, and solutions that work in Mississippi can provide lessons for the rest of the country.

We’re launching a newsletter here at The Hechinger Report about education in Mississippi that will explore what’s holding back kids in the Magnolia state and what might help them do better.

We’ll talk about teacher recruitment, charter school expansion, and efforts to close the achievement gap. Our bi-monthly newsletter will highlight great work from journalists in Mississippi and will also feature original reporting and interviews. We’ll continue to keep tabs on efforts to improve and reform child care in the state. We’ll go deeper on issues like segregation and look at how some districts are trying to integrate and teach increasingly diverse learners. And we’ll look at what data and research say about education and child welfare, and how federal and local policies are impacting Mississippi’s schools.

Why Mississippi?

The state has some of the most intractable problems:

  • 31 percent of children live in poverty.
  • 51 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are not in nursery school or preschool.
  • 45 percent of children live in a single-parent family.
  • 20 percent of adults ages 25 and higher have a bachelor’s degree.
  • 10 percent of teens ages 16-19 are not in school and are not working, compared to 7 percent nationwide.

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

But the state is also is showing some signs of progress:

Average scale scores on national exams are slowly increasing for several subject and grade levels.

The state’s graduation rate hit 80.8 percent in 2016, the same as the national rate.

School districts that have integrated and provided resources to all students have seen black and low-income students achieve at levels higher than peers in other districts.

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