In Mississippi, food gap widens during summer

This story also appeared on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.  Each summer, millions of Mississippi’s children rely on the federal Summer Food Service Program to provide up to two nutritious meals a day. It’s a small solution to a larger problem in Mississippi, where many of the most rural parts of the state lack access to healthy…

Have lessons about Mississippi’s violent past become optional?

McCOMB, Miss.—It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that Zachary Schilling learned of the racist violence that had transpired in his south Mississippi city during the 1960’s. In a civil rights elective course at McComb High School, he and his classmates were stunned by stories of bombings, lynchings and a student walkout. “Everybody…

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…