Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Columbus Dispatch. May 17, 2024.

Editorial: Reading scores will rise dramatically before end of summer

In May 2015, those who follow public education in Mississippi were introduced to a useful new spelling word: chill.

That was the word from educators after the state’s third-graders were required to read at a level set by the Mississippi Department of Education before advancing to the fourth grade.

The Third-Grade Reading Gate, as it was called, was passed during the 2013 legislative session, which gave educators two years to prepare.

The initial results were alarming, at least to the general public. Statewide, 5,600 third-graders (15 percent) failed to meet the standard on the initial test that April. In Columbus, Lowndes County, Starkville and Oktibbeha County, 154 students – equal to about five classrooms – failed to pass the test.

Educators said, in so many words, chill. Students who failed the initial test would have two more chances to pass. By the end of the third testing opportunity, just 44 of those 154 students failed to make the grade.

That’s been the story, more or less, ever since, and that’s the way it’s intended to work: Identify children who need extra attention and get them up to speed.

Thursday, in the ninth year of testing, MDE released the results of the first round of testing. Predictably, there were many students who failed to pass the initial test. Just as predictably, by the third round of testing, most of those students will meet that standard and will be advanced to the fourth grade next year. For those who don’t, being retained will likely be a good thing in the long run. Getting up to speed by the fourth grade is important, even if it takes two years to get there.

In Columbus Municipal School District, 60.9% of third-graders passed the initial test. In Lowndes County School District, 89.1% passed while 66.3% of third-graders in Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District passed. Statewide, 75.6% of all third-graders passed on the first try.

Some schools have more work to do than others, but past experience tells us that the vast majority of students will ultimately meet the standard.

For all students, testing is a good way to assess where a student stands, which is of value whether the student breezes through the test, struggles or lands somewhere in between.

That an 8-year-old child might have some struggles in their first exposure to standardized testing should not be much of a surprise.

Eventually, it works out. Most students will ultimately meet the standard. Those who don’t will eventually benefit from having another year to catch up with their peers and face a level playing field in the critical school years to follow.

So, yes, “chill” is the word of the day.


Greenwood Commonwealth. May 18, 2024.

Editorial: Inspector General Might Prevent Fraud

Republicans tend to want to create less government, not more. So it’s a little unusual for State Auditor Shad White to be advocating for the establishment of another oversight entity in Mississippi.

Still, his idea of an inspector general to catch the likely misspending before it happens is a good one. Nor is it new.

Former Gov. Kirk Fordice created the position under his office in the early 1990s, but it never got implemented because the Legislature declined to fund it. White is asking lawmakers to revisit the idea.

As proposed, the inspector general would work with other executive branch agencies to implement cost-savings programs, craft internal controls to prevent fraud and to monitor government programs. The inspector general also could be another avenue for lodging complaints about illegal activity.

White says that his office doesn’t get involved until after misspending or fraud happens. The inspector general could prevent them from occurring in the first place.

The idea is worth considering.