Miss. Board of Education releases strategic plan

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Board of Education is abandoning incremental goals in favor of big ones, according to a strategic plan released Thursday.

The previous goal of raising the state's graduation rate to 83 percent? Now officials want every student to graduate high school.

Forget trying to boost test scores to where 60 percent of all students score proficient or higher by 2016. Now, the aim is that all students will score at a proficient or higher level on every single state test.

And while Superintendent Carey Wright and others have been trying to round up enough money to incrementally expand Mississippi's recently created state preschool program, now the goal is to provide high quality preschool to every child.

Also part of the new goals: Giving every school effective teachers and leaders and getting every school district to effectively use the flood of data now available to improve learning.

"It's much bolder in terms of where we want to take the state," said state Board of Education Chairman John Kelly, who presented the plan to an audience of state Department of Education employees, local superintendents and others. "When you set goals, I think they should be stretch goals, particularly when you talk about the future of our children."

Each goal has a number of subsidiary objectives, as well as strategies for meeting the goals. For example, the proficiency goal calls for continuing to implement Common Core State Standards. Kelly said board members are willing to discuss improvements to those standards, acknowledging opposition to Common Core from Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Strategies include expanding math and reading coaches and increasing parental involvement.

Here's a look at where Mississippi stands on three of the goals:

PROFICIENCY: All students will be proficient and show increasing test scores in all areas.

Last year, about half of third-graders tested as proficient or higher on the state reading test, while about two-thirds of eighth graders tested at proficient or higher on the state math test.

State officials say they expect much lower scores on new tests. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a nationwide test taken by a representative sample of Mississippi students, only 15 percent of eighth-grade math students scored proficient or above.

GRADUATION: Every student graduates high school and is ready for college and career.

Last year, only 75 percent of high school students earned a diploma in four years.

In 2011, 52 percent of first-time, full-time college students at Mississippi's community colleges enrolled in at least one remedial course, according to the Community College Board.

The average ACT score in Mississippi is 19, below the 21 that the testing organization defines as college-ready. ACT said that only 12 percent of the more than 28,000 Mississippi students who took the exam were ready for college in English, math, reading and science.

EARLY CHILDHOOD: Every child has access to a high-quality early childhood program.

By some estimates, 85 percent or more of 4-year-olds in Mississippi attend some form of preschool or child care outside their homes. But program quality is unclear. A first-ever look at kindergarten readiness this fall found two-thirds of 5-year-olds weren't well-prepared when they started kindergarten. The state is spending only $3 million a year on its own program and just had its application rejected for $60 million in federal money.


Online: Mississippi Department of Education strategic plan: bit.ly/1r4hI5W


Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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