Education In Mississippi Gets Mixed Marks In New Report

Jane Boykin had a big smile on her face when she saw how many of the state's children were enrolled in preschool.

"Eighty-six percent here in Mississippi, nationally 67 percent," Boykin said.

But the data released by the KidsCount organization shows our high school dropout rate remains high, rising 2 percent in 10 years. We rank last in teens not attending school or working. Boykin says the problem starts early.

"We are not aiming high enough for our children."

So Boykin higher goals set early. She say the outdated pre-K curriculum should be thrown out. As the leader of the Mississippi KidsCount program, she's setting new standards with a more hands-on approach.

"Early education is very much a parent-centered job."

About two months ago, Boykin put a daycare center behind her office. It has one full-time caregiver. But the catch is, parents can come in their off-time and visit. They can even be trained to teach.

"Kids like being around their parents, and I think parents are more comfortable knowing where their kids are and being able to work at a place where you could just go right over to the next building," child caregiver Sabrena Thomas said.

Very few businesses have on the job daycare centers. It's something the parents here recommend.

"It is the best thing that could've ever happened to us," parent Jennifer Eastland said. "We are so lucky."

Boykin says our state is lucky to have so many children in preschool and kindergarten classes. She says we must capitalize on that strength to turn our weaknesses in the right direction.

By Davis Brister