I have had the opportunity to serve on the Mississippi Board of Education (MBE) for several years, most recently, as board chairman.
Throughout my many years as an educator, I have worked with one singular goal in mind. I want our children to gain the knowledge and skills in the classroom so they can be successful as they move on to college and out into the workforce.
I was given that chance as a young man and turned that chance into a degree from Alcorn State University, then a Master’s of Education degree from Jackson State University.
As my tenure as chairman of the MBE has ended, I can say without hesitation that we have provided a solid foundation that we can build upon to make tremendous strides in moving the state’s public education system to heights many never thought possible.
Just in the past two years, fewer and fewer public schools are labeled at risk of failing or failing, with the number of failing schools reduced from 29 to 11 in 2011, a decrease of 62 percent. At the top, Mississippi has seen growth in the number of star, high performing, and successful schools.
As chairman, we intensified our focus on improving Mississippi’s underperforming schools, and these numbers show our work is making a difference.
None of this would be possible without the leadership from our former state superintendent, Tom Burnham, my fellow board members, and the outstanding superintendents, principals and teachers in each school.
Let me also give credit to a group of people who aren’t always praised for what they do. Many parents have heeded the call from the Department of Education for more parental involvement.
If there is one reason for the vast improvement in our schools, it’s a change in the culture and attitudes of parents and guardians volunteering, working with educators and taking an active role in the educational process of their children. This cannot be emphasized enough.
We must expect more from our children and give them the tools to be successful. That’s not just notebooks, pencils and textbooks.
Our children need our participation in the home and from the community. This is how a school improves from being at risk to successful and from successful to star. The MBE is committed to giving schools what they need to grow.
You may be asking yourself what makes me so optimistic? The state of Mississippi is entering an era of public education unlike any other before this point in history. We have introduced new curriculum that will continue to ensure our students are no longer falling behind other states, but challenging for top spots across the country.
The Common Core State Standards will ensure a level playing field for our students to compete with other students across the country.
Our Excellence for All system gives students three paths to a better future. From the beginning of their ninth grade year, students can progress towards a high school diploma in four years, they can earn experience in vocational/technical areas that will lead to the workplace after graduation or they can earn a high school diploma as early as the end of their tenth grade year and begin college level courses.
I believe in our educators, but most of all I believe in the children of Mississippi. By implementing the various curriculum and programs, we are preparing our children to compete in today’s global society. With the commitment of every Mississippian, our schools can be among the best in the country.
Although my chairmanship has ended, I will continue to serve on the Board of Education and do all that I can for the public school students of this state.