- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An evaluation of school performance finds that Mississippi’s academic achievement gains have outstripped gains nationwide from 2003 to 2015, but gives the state’s public schools a D overall, ranking them second-to-last.

The evaluation by Education Week’s Quality Counts report moved Mississippi up a notch from last year, when it ranked 51st among the states and Washington, D.C. This year, Nevada ranked at the bottom, a little below Mississippi. The state’s overall grade remained the same, below the national average of a C.

“It’s a little better in some ways,” said state Superintendent Carey Wright. “We weren’t at the bottom, you can say. We were one up off the bottom.”

Despite gains on the most recent version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Mississippi still ranks last for academic achievement. The state, though, has outgained students nationwide in performance on the nationwide test, ranking 15th for gains from 2003 through 2015. Its grade in that area inched up from an F to a D-minus.

Wright continued to tout gains in the most recent administration of the NAEP test. She also said she was pleased that Education Week found that Mississippi was closing the gap between poorer and richer students in reading, although the report found the gap was widening in math.

The survey noted that few Mississippi high schoolers score a passing grade of 3 or higher on Advanced Placement exams that would allow them to earn college credit. Wright said that’s one example of a problem the state is aware of and is working on.

“We’ve been proceeding in all the areas we know we need some improvement,” she said.

The state ranks third-to-last in a measure of the life chances of a typical child, but its grade rose there from a D-plus to a C-minus. The state was dragged down by its low income and existing educational levels, which Education Week judged to be a handicap for students and evidence of poor outcomes for adults.

Mississippi ranked 40th in measures of how much it’s spending and how evenly spending is spread among rich and poor districts, getting a D-plus. The state spends 3.6 percent of its taxable resources, about the national average, on education, but because Mississippi is poor, that comes out to spending that is significantly below average, even once regional cost differences are canceled out. Property-rich districts spend more on students than property-poor districts, although Education Week rated spending less unequal across districts in Mississippi than in most other places.

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Online: Education Week Quality Counts: https://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy


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