Are state takeovers fixing Mississippi’s failing districts?

HAZLEHURST, Miss. — When the state took control of the Hazlehurst City school district in 2008, the small rural district was in chaos and suffering from abysmal academic performance. Student folders had gaps where grades and attendance records should have been. District personnel reports listed one employee as holding five different positions, including assistant superintendent,…

With Common Core, ‘less is more’ for rural Florida school

In Defuniak Springs in Florida’s panhandle, the third graders at West Defuniak Elementary are learning division. Specifically, 72 divided by six. Their teacher, Casi Adkinson drew circles onto the board. “I share my 72 into my six circles,” Adkinson said. “Are we ready to do that together? Ready? 1,2,3,4,5…” With the class counting along, Adkinson…

Schools gear up for for trial run of new exams

CLINTON, Miss. — When Kerri Burnside’s fourth-graders solve a math problem, they know they must do more than simply find the right answer. In many problems, Burnside asks her students to explain their thinking with complete sentences, proper spelling, and conventions. “It takes longer to grade now,” said Burnside on a recent morning in her…

New standards bring big changes for Mississippi students

RIDGELAND, Miss. — Nearly two dozen kindergarten students sat neatly on a carpet one sunny December morning at Ann Smith Elementary School here, studying vocabulary words related to timing and sequence. Their teacher, Charlotte McNeese, chose a timely example to illustrate the meaning of such words as next and finally, asking her students to outline…