Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on State must attract, retain top teachers:
Teachers in Mississippi are on the hot seat. In this age of test-driven accountability, our state's teachers face the double-edged challenge of lingering low educational achievement and high poverty.
Mississippi teachers are expected to perform at a higher level than ever before, yet their training doesn't fully prepare them for the task.
Of course, actual experience has always brought teachers, or any other professionals, into unanticipated and unrehearsed-for circumstances. But today teachers face a host of newer challenges — including understanding, interpreting and using student data — that teacher education programs haven't caught up with.
If we judge teachers on student achievement, they should be trained in the interpretation and use of the data that surround it. This is one of the most obvious areas where teacher education is getting a good, hard look as Mississippi works to update how it educates its educators.
That's why there's such a push on now to elevate the attractiveness of majoring in education for the brightest Mississippi students.
Creating more selective programs, such as the collaborative honors college-type approach to teacher education announced recently by Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, can help raise the prestige level at least closer to that of other, more lucrative professions.
But a big part of attracting and holding on to the best teachers is raising the financial rewards, meaning a commitment to moving teacher pay up more quickly that our state has demonstrated the resolve to do.
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on the state's lack of comprehensive autism services:
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States with an estimated one in 50 school-aged children now affected, yet the state has failed to seriously address its implications.
Yes, the Mississippi Legislature appointed a one-time task force and an ongoing committee to study autism and recommend strategies to deal with it. Among the suggestions were for the state to hire a full-time autism director, fund more early intervention and better train teachers to educate this growing population. But their proposals now gather dust on the proverbial shelf.
Meanwhile, the autism rate gains steam — from one in 150 children when the task force issued its report in 2007, to one in 100 when the committee submitted its own findings four years later.
But the state lacks comprehensive autism services. Doctors still aren't diagnosing the disorder soon enough. Early intervention providers are scarce. And the public school system hasn't equipped teachers with the tools necessary to educate these kids, much less prepare them for a future.
Other states have tackled this issue and gained national recognition for their policies and programs. Among them are Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado and Florida. Mississippi doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. It can learn from its peers and borrow the best strategies for implementation here at home.
Greenwood Commonwealth, Greenwood, Miss., on using house arrest:
Another issue that Mississippi lawmakers have not put to rest is how to get a better handle on corrections spending. The state Department of Corrections reports it will end this year with a $6 million shortfall and expects another $7 million deficit next year.
Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps continues to preach that the only way to keep from constantly breaking the bank is to lock up fewer nonviolent offenders and use alternative sentences such as house arrest instead.
The math is simple. Cost to incarcerate: $42 a day. Cost for electronic monitoring: $11 a day.
The savings outweigh the modest risk.
Vicksburg Post, Vicksburg, Miss., on the loss of a standard:
The first J.C. Penney store was opened in Kemmerer, Wyo., as the Golden Rule store in 1902. About 30 years later, that store's descendent, J.C. Penney, opened on Washington Street in Vicksburg.
As changes took shoppers from downtowns across the nation to outlying malls, Penney eventually followed suit in Vicksburg in 1984, opening a store at what was Pemberton Square mall. Along the way, it even dropped the periods in its name.
Recently, the sad news of the store closing its doors in Vicksburg was made public. Penney officials said they will close the Vicksburg Mall store in August — part of the chain's nationwide belt-tightening on the heels of a national economic dive.
Sad news, it is.
To more than one generation, it's the loss of a lifetime mainstay. From the creaking wooden floors of the three-story building downtown — children's department in the basement — to the glitz that came with a mall address, J.C. Penney in Vicksburg has been a standard.
It's nearly as much to do with Vicksburg as other businesses we've regrettably seen pass over the years — Koestler's Bakery, Rose Oil gas stations, The Glass Kitchen and too many others.
Sometimes, change is sad. This is one of those times.
End Editorial Rdp