More than school board needs to be changed: Part 1

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Senate Education Committee passed Bill 2141 recently.  The bill is championed by local Senator Tony Smith.  While the bill would not affect Pearl River Central Schools, it would change the Picayune and Poplarville School Districts from a mix of appointed and elected board members, to all elected.  An amendment was put in the bill to require board members to have at least one year of college.

While there is no doubt that I am personally a strong proponent of education in general, I am also a proponent of local control. However, it appears that the concept of local control is lost throughout the United States. Federal laws and policies created by the United States Department of Education have dictated what happens inside of school districts in our country.  It was President George W. Bush that ushered in the No Child Left Behind legislation that started a landslide of accountability testing geared to determine student learning and college readiness.

Somewhere along the historical path, public education took a distinct turn in the direction of attempting to prepare students for a path that led to the university.  While it is certainly a great goal that young people aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree (or higher) if they are fully dedicated to complete; the primary notion here is “fully dedicated”, because if the student is not, then reaching the graduation milestone might be improbable. Too many people start the college route on the baccalaureate (aka, 4 year degree) pathway; but most get sidetracked and do not complete their goal.

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Data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that only 50 percent of entering freshman into Mississippi public universities in 2004 had actually completed the bachelor’s degree by 2010. And this is a list that Mississippi is not last in, as the graduation rate for our state ranked 31out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mississippi outperformed states such as Indiana, Alabama and Hawaii. See the results at

At the community college level, like the universities, the graduation rates are disturbing.  Approximately 25 percent of first time freshmen enrollees starting at the community college level in 2007 had graduated in 2010. The good news here is that Mississippi ranked 17th when compared to the other 50 states. This data on community colleges is available at the link above. The Chronicle’s study found The University of Mississippi and Pearl River Community College with the highest graduation rates.

Examining the educational demands placed by the labor market in Mississippi is made easy by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce who provides outstanding research information about the job market. Georgetown’s data indicates that the labor market in Mississippi will require the following type of breakdown in education level:  

Education requirements of all job openings in Mississippi through 2018 by percentage:

Less than a high school diploma — 12 percent

High school diploma — 31percent

Some college – no degree — 13 percent

Associates degree (2 year degree) — 19 percent

Bachelors degree (4 year degree) — 18 percent

Masters degree or higher — 7 percent

For full report go to

Dr. Alsobrooks currently serves as the Vice President of Economic and Community Development at Pearl River Community College.