Mississippi’s high school graduation rate  is highest ever at 88.4%, dropout rate falls to 8.5%.

On Thursday, The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released the 2020-21 school year graduation and dropout rates, which reflect the highest statewide graduation rate of 88.4% and the lowest statewide dropout rate of 8.5%.

“Even when taking into account the pandemic’s effects on instruction and assessments, more Mississippi students are continuing the upward trend of staying in school and earning their diplomas,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “One of MDE’s goals is for every student to graduate from high school ready for college and career, and we will continue the essential work to support educators, families and students to achieve success.”

Over the last couple of years, Mississippi’s high school graduation rate has continued to rise despite the pandemic’s effects on instruction and assessments. It has risen to 88.4%, a significant increase from 74.5% in 2014.

The statewide dropout rate has continued to improve falling to 8.5%. In 2014, Mississippi’s dropout rate was 13.9%.

In the Superintendent’s Annual 2020-21 Report which was released in January,  Dr. Carey Wright discussed the many academic gains Mississippi students, schools and teachers achieved before the pandemic.

“Reaching No. 1 in the nation for gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), achieving significant, annual gains on statewide English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments in every grade, and earning Quality Counts’ No. 2 ranking in the nation for improvement in education – for three consecutive years,” Dr. Wright said in the Superintendent’s Annual Report 2020-21.

The MDE says that there are various implemented programs and initiatives to help students stay in school and earn their diplomas, including:

  • Endorsements – High school students have the opportunity to earn an endorsement with their high school diploma. Starting in ninth grade, students choose whether they want to work toward a traditional diploma, or take additional classes to earn an academic, distinguished academic or career and technical education endorsement. Students can earn more than one endorsement.
    • Each diploma option prepares students to be successful after graduation, whether in the workforce, a career and technical training program, the military or college.
    • Students who earn an academic or distinguished academic diploma endorsement from a public high school automatically qualify for admission into any of the state’s public universities. The endorsement opportunity has been phased in starting in 2018-19 and will be fully implemented for all students graduating in 2022.
  • Mississippi Early Warning System – The MDE developed this program in 2016 that offers guidance to school districts and schools to identify, support, and monitor at-risk students in grades K-12. Intervention is provided for students who need assistance to reach graduation and be ready for college and career.
  • COVID-related waivers – Due to COVID, waivers were granted for high school end-of-course assessments in the 2020-21 school year. Students did not have to earn a passing score on the assessments but still had to meet all other state and district requirements to graduate.