Como Elementary School in the Mississippi Delta may truly be one of the worst schools in the land. Its test scores are at the bottom of the state, and the state's scores are last in the nation. But a mere twenty minutes west of Como, across the Arkansas state line, things are looking up. This year, that state's Board of Education will consider a record dozen charter-school applications; the state recently relaxed its charter laws. Caroline Proctor, who directs the Arkansas Charter School Resource Center, said charter applicants are "naturally going to be drawn to this area and Delta" because of the number of underserved kids in the region. Unfortunately, the exceptionally restrictive charter law in Mississippi (which has only one charter school) means towns such as Como can't benefit from high-quality providers that may want to open schools in them. Improving education in places like the Delta takes innovation and a willingness to break with past orthodoxies. But politicians in Jackson seem bent on keeping their state last in just about everything--including being one of the last places to realize the potential of educational choice. Advice to Como parents: buy a raft, head to Arkansas.
"By the Mississippi Delta, A Whole School Left Behind," by Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post, October 28, 2007
"Charter school invasion," by Jennifer Barnett Reed, Arkansas Times, October 25, 2007