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Mississippi Success Story

By Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., State Superintendent of Education
Updated April 26, 2022

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Mississippi students can’t achieve great things. With the help of district and school leaders and dedicated teachers, students are rewriting the story about public education in the state.

We’ve all heard the negative narrative that comes from those who want to paint a bleak picture of public education, but it’s time to change that story – based on facts, not empty rhetoric. The narrative of “failing” Mississippi schools has been told for so long that many people don’t know that Mississippi students and schools are actually succeeding. 

Our success is attracting national attention. The Education Week Quality Counts report ranked Mississippi No. 2 in the nation for improvement in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Quality Counts ranked Mississippi No. 2 in 2021 for closing 4th grade reading achievement gap between students in low-income families and their wealthier peers  

While Mississippi has more improvement to make, it is clear that the state’s steady achievements in education demonstrate that substantial progress has been made. The public education community is changing the narrative of what Mississippi students can accomplish with the right supports, higher expectations and bold initiatives.

Mississippi has achieved unprecedented academic success and student achievement is rising every year. Here’s the whole story.

Mississippi’s Rankings for NAEP Gains (2017 to 2019)

  • No. 1 in 4th grade mathematics
  • No. 1 in 4th grade reading
  • No. 3 in 8th grade math
  • No. 4 in 8th grade reading
  • Only state with significant gains in three of four tested subjects

Mississippi’s Rankings for 10-year NAEP Gains (2009 to 2019)

  • No. 2 in 4th grade mathematics
  • No. 2 in 4th grade reading
  • No. 2 in 8th grade math
  • No. 4 in 8th grade reading 

Early Childhood Education

  • 77 percent of pre-K students in Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELC) met the end-of-year kindergarten readiness score, up from 59 percent in 2015
  • ELC students achieved the highest average score in spring 2019 on the statewide test administered in public pre-K classes to assess whether they are on track to be ready for kindergarten
  • The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) first recognized Mississippi for its ELC program in 2015 as one of only five states that meet all 10 of its quality standards. In 2021, NIEER recognized Mississippi as one of only five states whose publicly funded pre-K program meets all 10 of NIEER’s quality standards for early childhood education. 


Literacy skills among students in pre-K through the 3rd grade have steadily improved:

  • 65.6 percent of kindergarteners met the end-of-year target score in 2019, up from 54 percent in 2015
  • 85.6 percent of 3rd graders passed the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment after their final attempt in 2019, which means the large majority of 3rd graders are meeting the highest reading standard ever required under the Literacy-Based Promotion Act

Student Proficiency

  • English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics proficiency rates increased annually between 2015 and 2019, rising from 32 to 42 percent in ELA and from 27 to 47 percent in Mathematics
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in Mathematics quadrupled from 2016 (15 districts) to 2019 (62 districts)
  • Number of districts that had greater than 45 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in ELA more than tripled from 2016 (14 districts) to 2019 (48 districts)

Advanced Learning and Career Preparation

  • Advanced Placement (AP) participation and achievement (scores of 3 or higher) nearly doubled since 2013
  • African-American students achieving an AP qualifying score of 3 or higher in 2018 increased 10 percent over the previous school year and Hispanic student achievement increased 7.3 percent
  • All subgroups increased AP participation, including a 39.4 percent increase among minority students from 2016 to 2017
  • Participation in dual credit courses more than doubled from 2016 to 2020
  • Number of students completing Career and Technical Education programs increased from 6,912 in 2015 to 9,426 in 2021
  • Mississippi’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 88.4 percent in 2022, exceeding the most recent national rate of 86 percent
  • The statewide drop-out rate fell to an historic low of 8.5 percent in 2022, a decrease from 13.9 percent in 2014. 

  • Graduation rate increased for all subgroups from 2014 to 2022, with the rate for students with disabilities more than doubling from 23.2 percent to 59.9 percent.

2018-19 Accountability

  • 73.5 percent of schools earned an A, B or C for the 2018-19 school year, an increase from 62.4 percent in 2016
  • 69.7 percent of districts earned an A, B or C for the 2018-19 school year, an increase from 62.2 percent in 2016
  • Since 2016, the number of schools and districts earning an A has more than doubled, with the number of A-rated schools jumping from 88 to 196, and A-rated districts increasing from 14 to 31 in 2019
  • Among the 140 districts and five charter schools, 46 increased their letter grade from 2017-18 to 2018-19 
  • Among the state’s 877 schools, 258 increased their letter grade from last year

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