Today’s piece is cross-posted from ExcelinEd’s reform news section.
The Mississippi Legislature met from January 6 to April 2, 2015 and considered many types of education reform during their three-month session. ExcelinEd commends Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Senator Gray Tollison and many other legislators, Empower Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Mississippi First and the American Federation for Children for their dedication to improving the education system in Mississippi for all students. Below is a summary of Mississippi’s efforts to advance reform during the 2015 legislative session.
EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (ESAs)
- On April 16, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act into law, making Mississippi the third state in the nation to adopt an Education Savings Account (ESA) program after Arizona and Florida. In its first year the program will serve 500 students with special needs. ExcelinEd is already providing Mississippi’s Department of Education with technical assistance in implementation at their request.
STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
- During Mississippi’s 2015 Session, the Legislature considered several bills regarding all aspects of standards and accountability. Ultimately, the Mississippi Legislature retained laws allowing the state’s existing A-F School Grading system to transition with new assessments. The Legislature also did not adopt proposals that would have created negative impacts to graduation requirements for students with special needs and students in career and technical education programs.
- Notably, policymakers rejected a push to dilute the state’s comprehensive K-3 Reading policy, a policy that blends early identification, teacher training and supports, interventions for struggling readers, parent notification and retention as a last resort. Each component of the policy is necessary to ensure that K-3 students are reading proficiently to succeed from fourth grade to graduation, resulting in lawmakers rejecting efforts to remove retention as a last resort.
A Timeline of Four Years of Student-Centered Reforms in Mississippi
- 2015: Enacted the nation’s third ESA school choice law.
- 2015: Continued funding for reading coaches and other supports for the K-3 Reading policy.
- 2014: Enacted school recognition rewards for schools earning A or B grades, and schools that improve one letter grade.
- 2014: Enacted legislation to expand intervention and support services, including more reading coaches, for the K-3 Reading policy.
- 2013: Enacted legislation to authorize charter schools in Mississippi.
- 2013: Enacted comprehensive K-3 Reading policy designed to make sure students are reading proficiently by fourth grade.
- 2012: Enacted A-F School Grading legislation to give parents and communities a transparent system of accountability to report schools’ successes and struggles.