Mississippi students, educators and schools persisted through pandemic challenges during the 2019-20 school year.
That was the message Tuesday as state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright released her annual superintendent’s report.
“Mississippi students, teachers and school leaders started the 2019-20 school year in a position of strength. Our state was no. 1 in the nation for gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), students in every grade had made significant, annual gains on statewide English Language Arts and mathematics assessments, and our graduation rate hit an all-time high of 85 percent, on par with the national average,” said Wright. “For most of the 2019-20 school year, great teaching and learning continued in Mississippi schools, with students poised for more record gains.”
Wright said the COVID-19 pandemic during the final few months of the academic year caused the sudden closure of school buildings and forced educators to move learning from classrooms to students’ homes within a matter of days.
“The Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi State Board of Education acted quickly to provide resources and remove obstacles to help districts adapt to distance learning,” she added. “We gave districts flexibilities to teach students in innovative ways and helped them provide the millions of meals students depended upon. Mississippi teachers and school leaders used all available tools to connect with their students – from laptops to phone calls to encouraging notes tucked into learning packets delivered by school bus.”
Because of the change in learning, no new achievement data were produced for the 2019-20 school year. State and national assessments were not administered.
“I am incredibly proud of our students, teachers and leaders and the resilience they showed during incredibly challenging circumstances,” said Wright. “I am optimistic about the future of education in Mississippi because we have already proven what can happen when there is a singular focus on supporting students and improving academic achievement. When we put students first, Mississippi succeeds.”
According to Wright, priorities for 2021 include maintaining a focus on literacy and high academic standards to prepare all students for college and careers, strengthening the state’s early childhood education infrastructure, continuing to help make teachers and school leaders more effective, making data-driven decisions to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps, and improving low-performing schools.