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In this file photo, students at The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science take notes during a science class. Mississippi’s ESSA plan calls for a computer science pipeline in schools. Credit: Jackie Mader

Mississippi is currently accepting public comments on its Every Student Succeeds Act plan, which describes how the state will meet requirements of the federal law. The plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September. Many ESSA requirements went into effect during the 2016-17 school year; others will be enacted during the 2017-18 school year.

Mississippi’s plan, which ran to 108 pages by mid-June, covers a myriad of topics and provides some insight into the educational areas the state may prioritize in the next few years. If you don’t have time to read the plan in its entirety, here are five upcoming initiatives to look for:

1. A ‘Grow-Your-Own’ teacher initiative

The Mississippi Department of Education is planning to launch a program that will create a “sustainable pipeline of educators who are members of the community in which they teach, particularly in urban and isolated rural districts.” Similar programs have been used in other parts of the country, especially in rural areas where teacher recruitment can be challenging. Mississippi’s plan would address the problems of poor teacher recruitment and retention and would also try to increase teachers’ cultural competence and community connections. MDE’s goal is to have teacher academies, which will introduce minority high school students to the teaching profession, in every critical-shortage school district.

2. Strengthen training for school leaders

The state is planning to improve opportunities for school leaders to receive training and support to better coach teachers and ultimately improve outcomes for students.

3. Improve teacher preparation

Mississippi will work with teacher preparation programs to improve the training teachers receive before entering the classroom. This includes increasing opportunities for aspiring teachers to practice their skills in local schools.

4. Increase access to advanced courses and ‘well-rounded’ classes

Since 2015, Mississippi has required all 11th-grade students to take the ACT assessment, which measures whether students are ready for college and careers. Based on the state’s ACT scores, students are not necessarily prepared. In 2016, Mississippi’s average composite score on the ACT was 18.4 for seniors, compared to the national average of 20.8. To better prepare students for higher-level work and for jobs after graduation, Mississippi plans to expand access to college-level Advanced Placement courses and invest more in career and technical education. According to Mississippi’s plan, the state also intends to improve access to arts education and world languages.

5. Create a computer science pipeline in schools

During the 2016-17 school year, a pilot program called Computer Science for Mississippi launched in 38 school districts in the state. Students in K-5 were instructed in coding, robotics, and keyboarding from teachers who received specific computer science training. The state plans to expand the program to all Mississippi public schools by 2024.

Seventeen states have submitted ESSA plans to the federal government so far; and this week a peer review of the plans was released. The peer review, completed by 32 education experts from across the country, looks at each plan’s strengths and weaknesses and also sees whether states are going beyond federal requirements. Because Mississippi has not yet submitted its plan, the state is not included in the review, but you can check out the results from other states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, here. (Spoiler alert, New Mexico received praise for its plan, which included a goal to reduce the number of students who need remedial education after high school. Michigan and Arizona received some of the lowest marks, in part due to leaving information out of their plans.)

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