State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright testifies before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright told Congress on Tuesday that the state is ramping up career and technical education offerings and is now requiring the lowest performing schools to meet with MDE personnel to review latest protocols and expectations under the Mississippi Succeeds plan.

The Mississippi Succeeds plan is the state’s iteration of how it will meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. All states are required to submit such a plan to the federal government.

“Our plan builds upon the significant investments we have made in areas of early childhood education, literacy, career and technical education and professional development for all teachers,” Wright testified to members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., asked Wright for more specifics about what Mississippi is doing in the way of career and technical education opportunities for students.

“About 65 percent of the jobs currently available are requiring middle skills (those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree), so we have formed a committee working not only with our state workforce investment board but also on the implementation of the Workforce Investment Act,” Wright responded.

“We have four sectors in our state and what we have done is we’ve established groups in each of our sectors to work directly with businesses in our sectors … to develop CTE (career and technical education) plans to help our children starting in high school graduate from high school and go directly into the workforce,” she continued.

Wright also told members about the state’s proposed new diploma options, which includes an option for a career and technical endorsement.

Wright addressed other questions from lawmakers about how Mississippi would measure and support its historically low-performing subgroups, including African Americans. She explained that the lowest performing schools in Mississippi would first be identified using subgroup data and then provided support, as required by ESSA.

“We have a protocol in place where we have required all low-performing schools to come in for a personal interview — including board members, principals, etc. — and then go through the protocol with them about what we’re going to be monitoring and how frequently,” Wright said. ” The bottom line for me as state superintendent is: ‘Are student outcomes improving?’ And that’s where we’re coming from.”

Under ESSA, states must identify and provide support to the lowest-performing five percent of all schools receiving Title I funds, which go to high-poverty schools. Based on last year’s data, 36 schools in Mississippi qualify for what the state is calling Comprehensive Support and Improvement interventions.

View the full hearing here.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.