JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant today signed into law a broad package of education reforms outlined in his Education Works agenda. The measures will enable charter schools to open for the first time in Mississippi, place a command focus on early childhood literacy, and implement a simple, student-achievement based school grading formula to accompany the A-F labels Mississippi implemented in 2012.
“Governor Bryant and state legislators acted boldly for Mississippi’s children,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). “They are paving the way for an education transformation through reforms such as school choice, ending social promotion and providing intensive remediation for third grade students who struggle to read, and grading schools using a clear, transparent formula. These reforms, if implemented well, will reorganize Magnolia State schools around what matters most – student learning.”
The policy receiving the most attention and debate was House Bill 369, which broadens current law to allow for the creation of charter schools in Mississippi. Charter schools approved by a newly-formed State Authorizing Board may open in failing school districts, and A-, B- or C-graded districts may choose to veto the creation of charter schools within their boundaries.
“I also applaud Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, who ensured each reform passed the Legislature successfully; Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison and House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, who championed the reform bills through their respective education committees; and all the legislators, business leaders and supportive Mississippians who turned the Education Works agenda into a reality,” added Bush.
In addition, a number of other education reforms were signed into law on Wednesday:
- Senate Bill 2347 establishes a “Third Grade Gate,” requiring third-graders to demonstrate they can read at basic level before advancing to fourth grade. Parents of K-3 students struggling in reading will receive written notification that their child is at risk of being retained. At-risk students will also receive required additional instruction and interventions, such as 90 consecutive minutes of daily reading instruction and summer reading camps designed to help students achieve basic reading skills and avoid repeating third grade.
- Senate Bill 2396 replaces Mississippi’s school grading formula with a clear and consistent, student-achievement based approach that grades schools on the percentage of students on grade level in tested subject areas and those who make a year’s worth of progress in a year’s time on state assessments. High schools will also be graded on graduation rates, the percentage of students pursuing higher-level coursework, and the percentage of students who graduate college- or career-ready.
- Senate Bill 2658 requires high schools with a graduation rate of less than 80 percent to submit improvement plans. The measure also funds 200 scholarships for high-achieving high school and college students who commit to teaching in a Mississippi public school for five years, and it includes $1.5 million to finance teacher merit pay pilot programs in four school districts.
- Senate Bill 2188 increases standards for entry into teacher education programs at Mississippi universities. Students must have a 2.75 GPA on pre-major coursework and either score a 21 on the ACT or pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Assessment.
To learn more about what Mississippi and other reform-minded states are doing to improve education for all children, visit www.excelined.org.
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