- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright is one step closer to being confirmed to her post.

The Senate Education Committee voted 14-1 Thursday in favor of Wright, who was hired by the state Board of Education last year to lead Mississippi schools.

The nomination goes to the full Senate for a vote later.

Wright, who previously worked in the District of Columbia and Maryland, continues to emphasize her support for state-funded preschool and efforts to improve students’ academic performance. Mississippi was recently ranked last by Education Week for academic performance among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

“I know what works to improve student achievement and what doesn’t,” she said of her experience.

Sen. Angela Hill, a Picayune Republican, was the only committee member who voted against Wright. Hill opposes state-funded preschool and Mississippi’s embrace of Common Core standards.

“I don’t believe that Dr. Wright’s philosophy of having 3-year-old children in public school is shared by the majority of Mississippians,” Hill said.

Supporters of Common Core say the standards will help students learn more analytically and less by memorization. Opponents see them as academically flawed and a loss of state control. Hill questioned Wright on whether Common Core math classes would adequately prepare students to take calculus before they graduate from high school. Wright said that would still be possible, but Hill said she disagreed.

Wright told committee members she’s seeking high-quality prekindergarten, mandatory kindergarten, better training for teachers, principals and superintendents and tighter controls over academically struggling districts, among other initiatives.

“If you provide access to a high-quality and rigorous program, there are plenty of children who are willing to step forward and excel,” Wright said.

Wright, who serves at the pleasure of the state Board of Education, is being paid $300,000 a year. The new superintendent said she was gratified at the strong support, and said she thought she could work effectively with lawmakers, who have in recent years imposed a number of mandates that the Department of Education opposed.

“It’s a partnership,” Wright said of the relationship. “It’s work we all have to collectively do together.”