Feds to review state education overhaul plan

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The Mississippi Department of Education wants to improve student achievement in multiple areas by 2025, according to a plan the agency submitted Wednesday to the U. S. Department of Education for review.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education, answers questions about staffing during a legislative working group hearing centering on agencies personnel and their cost effectiveness, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Capitol in Jackson.

The plan, called Mississippi Succeeds, focuses on improving education outcomes in testing, graduation rates, access to quality early learning opportunities and other areas.

All states are required to develop a new plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act passed by Congress in 2001. Mississippi education department officials presented the Mississippi Succeeds plan in detail to the State Board of Education in June.

In contrast to its controversial predecessor, the new federal education law provides schools and districts more flexibility to improve equity, transparency, accountability and access to high-quality early education.

The Mississippi Succeeds plan calls for eliminating the achievement gap between all students and African-Americans. The federal law also requires states to reduce the gap in graduation rates of special education students and other students. According to a release from the state Department of Education, the 2015-2016 graduation rate for students with disabilities was 34.7 percent; the state intends to raise that figure to 70 percent by 2025.

In addition, the state aims to see an overall graduation rate of 90 percent by 2025, up from 82.3 percent last school year.

The state plan will also specifically target low-performing, high-poverty schools. The federal government now requires states to identify and provide support to the lowest-performing five percent of all schools receiving Title I funds, or high-poverty schools.

State Superintendent Carey Wright testified before Congress this summer to explain Mississippi’s new plan and developments in career and technical education options for students.

“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 told members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

According to the release, the Department of Education will review Mississippi’s plan “over the next few weeks” and provide more information before the plan is approved.