Mississippi's Achievement Gaps Linked to Gaps in Funding and Teacher Quality

Last Updated: November 15, 2005

Student Achievement and the Distribution of Human and Financial Resources in Mississippi School Districts

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News Release
CONTACTS: Marty Strange, (802) 728-4383
Jerry Johnson (author), (606) 831-2571

(Washington, DC)—As the MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) Committee heads into a hearing on Monday November 28 to hear input and feedback from education stakeholders, a new report suggests that the current distributions of both school funding and qualified teachers are primary forces behind Mississippi's achievement gaps.

The new analysis from the Rural School and Community Trust finds that districts with students facing the most severe challenges to high academic achievement are also the districts that have the most limited resources with which to address those challenges. Conversely, districts with students facing the fewest challenges are also the ones with the most resources.

The study, Student Achievement and the Distribution of Human and Fiscal Resources in Mississippi Public School Districts, compares resource levels in Mississippi's 149 school districts with student demographic and achievement data. It finds that the 31 lowest achieving districts have rates of poverty, unemployment, and adults without high school diplomas that are between 26% and 59% higher than the state's other 118 districts. These 31 districts are also in the unenviable position of attempting to overcome these well-known barriers to student achievement with fewer resources-as much as $274 less per pupil in combined state and local revenue.

In addition, the lowest achieving districts have more than twice the rate of emergency certified teachers, and a 5% lower rate of highly qualified teachers. These gaps are even larger when the lowest achieving districts are compared with districts achieving above the state average, and larger still when compared to the highest achieving districts. At each successive level of comparison, the lowest achieving group of districts faces greater demographic challenges and has fewer essential resources with which to address those challenges.

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