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New Mississippi State Supt. of...

New Mississippi State Supt. of Education considers improvements as legislative session nears

By: Anne Summerhays - December 26, 2022

Dr. Robert Taylor

Dr. Taylor is set to begin work January 17. He says he’ll work cooperatively with lawmakers to align MDE priorities with their legislative agenda.

In November, Dr. Robert Taylor, a 30-year veteran educator and deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, was named Mississippi’s new State Superintendent of Education.

He will assume the helm of the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) on January 17th.

Taylor will succeed Dr. Kim Benton, who has been serving as Interim State Superintendent of Education since July following the retirement of Dr. Carey Wright.

“Mississippi has made tremendous strides in literacy and our goal as a state should be to continue this growth and refine the work that has produced such great results,” Dr. Taylor said in a statement to Y’all Politics. “I look forward to working with local school districts, superintendents, and their school staff in identifying barriers to success. The MDE will continue its support of local districts, working to expand our efforts to support the work that makes children college and career ready.”

Dr. Taylor said many districts produce outstanding student results, and he welcomes the opportunity to examine their efforts and develop pathways for all schools and districts to share successful work.

Ahead of the 2023 Mississippi Legislative session, Dr. Taylor said the work of producing legislation to support schools resides with the Mississippi Legislature and Governor.  He looks forward to meeting with lawmakers and state leaders when he officially begins his role. 

The new State Superintendent of Education said his goal will be to offer effective legislative ideas that will benefit student growth.

“We are in the process of scheduling legislative meetings during my first weeks on the job,” Dr. Taylor told Y’all Politics last week.

Less than a month from the start date of his new position, Dr. Taylor spoke about the improvements and issues in education he believes Mississippi faces.

Dr. Taylor noted that Mississippi has made significant improvements in education over the past decade thanks to key legislation in the areas of early childhood education, literacy, teacher preparation and support, and school and district accountability.

“Mississippi faces much of the same education issues as other states including overcoming pandemic disruptions, teacher support and retention, and making the best use of limited public resources,” Dr. Taylor explained. “I will work cooperatively with lawmakers to align the priorities of the Mississippi State Board of Education Strategic Plan with their legislative agenda.”

Under the leadership of former State Superintendent of Education Dr. Wright, Mississippi initiated successful education reforms that made Mississippi a national leader for improving student achievement. 

Mississippi’s Quality Counts grade for education improved from an F to a C-, and its ranking climbed from 50th to 35th. The graduation rate also rose from 75.5% to 88.4%, which is higher than the national average. 

“Mississippi 4th graders in 2013 were reading more than one full grade level behind the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP),” MDE reported.  “By 2019, Mississippi 4th graders scored higher than the nation’s public schools average in mathematics, tied the nation in reading, and ranked No. 1 in the nation for making the largest score gains.”

The rapid progress of Mississippi students earned the state Quality Counts’ No. 2 ranking in the nation for improvement in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

One of the issues the new State Superintendent will face is the push by some lawmakers, and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, to convert to an adjusted or modified school calendar. A handful of school district around the state have made the switch and others are considering doing so as local school boards plan for the 2023-2024 school year.

When asked about an adjusted or modified school calendar versus a traditional school calendar, Dr. Taylor said a modified school calendar is absolutely beneficial.  He added that there has been research that has shown modified school calendars can be beneficial for students when districts add instructional time during intersessions.

“Implementing a modified school calendar is a local district decision that is made based on the needs of their communities,” Dr. Taylor said. “Several Mississippi districts have adopted a modified school calendar after gathering input from their schools and communities.”

Ultimately, Dr. Taylor said parents expect the best from educators, and he will work tirelessly to meet that goal.

“As always, parents should have the loudest voice regarding the education of their children, and as State Superintendent you will have my listening ear,” Dr. Taylor said in a statement. “The opportunity to return home to Mississippi and work hand in hand with all stakeholders to improve education is perhaps the pinnacle of one’s career. This opportunity has been afforded to my family and I and we look forward to our homecoming.”

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: