Wright Promises Change in Trajectory For Mississippi EducationBy Evelina Burnett | Published 11 Jun 2014 03:59pm |
Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says she’s determined to lift the state off the bottom of national education rankings. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, she spoke to hundreds of Mississippi teachers at a conference yesterday in Biloxi to explain her plans.
Wright spoke about the importance of leadership, of empowering teachers, and of using data to improve instruction. She closed her speech with a promise.
"Trust me on this - we're not going to stay at the bottom. I don't like being last. I've never liked being last," she said, as the crowd of hundreds of teachers, administrators and others in the field of education began to applaud. "We are going to change the trajectory of education in this state."
Wright's enthusiasm resonated with many in the audience. Anthony O’Neal teaches at Baxterville School in Lamar County.
"I think to hear the chief officer of Mississippi say that is an encouragement to any teacher or administrator, that we're going to do this together," he said. "It's going to take a little while because you don't end up on the bottom and stay there for a while for nothing, so it's going to take a lot of hard work. But she's the one who's getting read to set the example and probably put the policies and principals forward so that we can begin that process."
Wright has been state superintendent for about seven months. After her speech, she told MPB News that her first priorities include expanding early childhood education and literacy.
"I'm just a firm believer that if we could get our children started in three-year-old and four-year-old, high quality programs, imagine what they could accomplish when they hit kindergarten," Wright said. "And then I wouldn't even be worrying about the third grade gate, because they would have had all this experience at an early age from high-quality teachers. So that is a huge piece for me that we really need. And then the focus on literacy from an early age."
Fina Hence, principal of Beaumont Elementary in Perry County, agrees both are critical.
"That is so important because these days we have children coming in with little to no experience with print," she said. "They are language deficit. I'm even seeing students coming to us without even being able to write or spell their names or know the letters of the alphabet. We used to get them from Head Start already equipped with those early literacy skills, but we're having to do a lot more in kindergarten."
Wright says she’s looking at forming a foundation for the state that could bring in large donor money with a focus on Pre-K and early childhood education.
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