Editorial Roundup: Mississippi
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Vicksburg Post looking back at 2019:
Over the recent weeks, we have scoured through our archives to pull out what we — and many others — would consider the top stories of 2019.
And while we could have chosen those that received the most clicks, likes or shares, the criteria we stuck to was picking the stories that shaped 2019.
It would have been much easier to choose shootings and murders, crashes and mayhem, but while crime was — and remains — an ongoing challenge for our community, it did not define who we were as a community in 2019.
There was little debate as to the year’s top story. It was the flood. Rather it was The Flood. The devastating tragedy is worthy of capitalization and promotion to a proper noun.
It was an event, a catastrophe, that consumed the year, touched thousands of lives both directly and indirectly, and the recovery from that flood will likely shape much of 2020.
But while the flood was the main event, what we will remember most from 2019 is not the water, but rather the people. We will remember those who furiously fought the water though massive sandbagging efforts. We will remember those who chose to remain in their homes, hoping beyond hope the water would stop. We will remember those who stood watch over the flooded homes and communities. And, we will remember those who organized recovery efforts, raised money, donated supplies and gave of their time.
Two-thousand-nineteen gave us plenty of moments to be discouraged, upset and sad, but instead of giving in to those emotions, our community chose to fight and to stand with one another.
As a community, we might feel tired, bruised and weary from a tough year, but we are stronger for it. We proved a community of driven and compassionate neighbors can overcome any tragedy, any devastation.
There is no telling what 2020 will throw at us, throw at our community, but today we stand stronger, confident that whatever the challenge, whatever the obstacle, that we can meet it head-on and persevere.
We step out in a New Year thankful God has blessed us with a new day, a new year and a new decade, and thankful for the lessons learned and blessings received in 2019.
The (Tupelo) Daily Journal on local organizations helping children in the area:
Children are a gift and a responsibility, and we all bear at least some responsibility to ensure their care and safety. In Northeast Mississippi, an array of valuable and laudable efforts help shoulder this responsibility for all of us all. We ask that you remember these efforts and support them as you are able.
Across the last week, the Daily Journal has published a series of articles by reporter Danny McArthur highlighting the work of local organizations and ministries that aid and assist the children in our region.
On Monday (Dec. 23), we highlighted Beds for Kids. Based in Baldwyn, this faith-based ministry builds bed frames and gives them to children in need, all to make sure that a good night’s sleep is had.
On Tuesday, local emergency shelter Faith Haven took center stage. It is unfortunate, but necessary, that the state must sometimes intervene and separate children from their parents or guardians. When that happens, Faith Haven fills a vital need and provides immediate shelter until longterm arrangements are secured.
Following the need for rest and shelter, hunger was the issue of the day Thursday. Our reporting featured the Full Tummy Project in Monroe County, which coordinates with local schools to make sure that when students leave for the weekend they are facing the prospect of thin cupboards.
The Tupelo Children’s Mansion came up next for attention, with a story that highlighted the longterm legacy of these local services. Jerry Kelly, from Arkansas, stayed at the Tupelo children’s home for six years and still remembers it as formative, as a place where “the hate was replaced with love, the chaos with peace.”
Finally, on Saturday, Cami Jo Cares and its work providing clothes and toys to children, with other activities. Part of the group’s mission centers around teaching children themselves the value of giving back.
There are other organizations in the region doing similar work, and some of them may appear in our pages in 2020 and beyond. Each day on the front page, the Daily Journal declares that it is “A locally owned newspaper dedicated to the service of God and mankind.” We take that mission seriously as we seek to have an impact in Northeast Mississippi.
Sometimes that mission requires that we report difficult and uncomfortable facts. Change for the better doesn’t happen without awareness of the problem. But many times, we are able to foster solutions and the people working for those solutions. We urge you to consider how you might contribute and be a problem-solver locally.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on low ACT scores and high graduation rates:
Falling ACT scores for Mississippi high schoolers further illustrate that the increase in graduation rates, so touted by education officials and politicians, is an illusion created by decreased standards rather than an actual improvement in what students are learning.
The average ACT score for Mississippi juniors dropped from 17.8 in 2018 to 17.6 in 2019, according to numbers released this month by the Mississippi Department of Education. The scores for graduates fell from 18.3 to 18.1.
That’s the opposite of what graduation rates have done. They increased from 83% in 2018 to 84% in 2019, part of a steady rise that dates back to when the state’s graduation rate was 74.5% in 2014.
State leaders, including Gov. Phil Bryant, Gov.-elect Tate Reeves and Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, have all bragged repeatedly about those statistics.
However, if this state’s high school students were really achieving more in the classroom, then it would be reflected on the ACT, which is the national standard used by most colleges when admitting students. The fact that the ACT performance is actually worse shows that more students may be graduating but they’re less prepared for the real world, whether it be work or higher education.
So why are more graduating? The clear answer is that the state has lowered its standards. We now expect less from our children than we did just a few years ago.
Starting in 2013, the state Board of Education removed the requirement that students pass four subject-area exams in algebra, U.S. history, English and biology to graduate. That change coincides exactly with the increase in graduation rates.
Taxpayers deserve the truth about the results produced by their investment in public education, not cooked up numbers made to make those in power look good.
The students, too, deserve an education that actually makes them viable candidates for good careers. Giving them a diploma when they have not objectively earned it doesn’t accomplish that end. If nothing else, it cheapens the value of a Mississippi high school degree in the eyes of employers and universities.
As the national economy shifts toward being more service-based, the need for better academic knowledge among the workforce is only going to increase. That means Mississippi needs higher education standards, not lower, to lift the state’s economy.
The state Board of Education should reinstate the subject-area test requirement. While the graduation rates would no doubt go down, it would send a positive signal that the state is serious about improving the value of a high school diploma, not just playing games with statistics.