This is why in Tennessee

We're thankful for states like Mississippi. We stay ahead of them in educational rankings. But it's really not funny; it's a tragedy.  From Time.

Mississippi Learning: Why the State's Students Start Behind — and Stay Behind
Thirty years after Mississippi established statewide kindergarten and made school attendance compulsory starting in first grade, classroom readiness remains a major obstacle to student success in this state, which has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country and test scores that are consistently among the nation's worst. 
Although neighboring states have made great strides in early education, Mississippi remains the only state in the South — and just one of 11 in the country — that doesn't fund any pre-k programs. Researchers have found that high-quality pre-k programs can improve long-term outcomes for low-income children and help close an achievement gap for minorities that tends to worsen over time. Being able to stand in line, listen to directions or make eye contact with the teacher play in an important role when it comes time to try to teach kids how to read and write. And a lack of school readiness is evident the minute children walk in on the first day of kindergarten, says Kaye Sowell, who has taught for 30 years in Rankin County. "I've had to chase children into the street," she says. "I have kids who don't know their given name and can't recognize it in print. They can't go through the lunch line without holding it up. You can't fathom it unless you've lived it." 
Failure to prepare children for kindergarten or first grade costs the state a lot of money. One of every 14 kindergarteners and one of every 15 first-graders in Mississippi repeated the school year in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. From 1999 to 2008, the state spent $383 million on children who had to repeat kindergarten or first grade, according to the Southern Education Foundation. Children like Akeeleon start so far behind they may never catch up, and those who repeat one or more grades are much more likely than their classmates to drop out of school, decades of research have shown.


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