After a 50-year career in public education, State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, Ed.D., will retire on June 30, 2022.
The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) appointed Dr. Wright to be the state’s top pre-K-12 education official in 2013. Her tenure in Mississippi has been longer and marked by more student gains than any state superintendent of education since the Education Reform Act of 1982 established the SBE. Nationally, Dr. Wright is one of the longest-serving state education chiefs of the 21st century.
Under Dr. Wright’s leadership, the state 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-, its ranking climbed from 50th to 35th and the graduation rate rose from 75.5% to 88.4% – higher than the national average. Among students with disabilities, the graduation rate more than doubled from 23.2% to 59.9%. 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). By 2019, Mississippi 4th graders scored higher than the nation’s public school 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.
“Dr. Wright never wavered from her belief that Mississippi students were just as capable as students in any other state,” said Rosemary Aultman, SBE chair. “She eliminated the culture of low expectations and proved our students could achieve at the highest levels. States throughout the country now turn to Mississippi to learn about our successful strategies for raising student achievement. Dr. Wright’s leadership has improved educational opportunities and outcomes for a generation of Mississippi students.”
A passionate advocate for early childhood education, Dr. Wright implemented Mississippi’s first publicly funded Early Learning Collaborative program, which earned the state recognition from the National Institute for Early Education Research as one of only six states in the nation that meet all 10 quality standards for early childhood education. The program has grown from 11 collaboratives serving 1,700 children in 2014 to 30 collaboratives that will serve 6,000 children in 2022-23.
Dr. Wright spearheaded initiatives that have increased literacy skills in pre-K through the grade 3, pushed student achievement on the NAEP to improve at a faster rate than most other states, and nearly doubled the Advancement Placement participation and success rate. Pre-pandemic, Mississippi students achieved significant annual gains in English Language Arts and Mathematics proficiency. Though the pandemic disrupted learning throughout the country, Mississippi’s assessment scores did not fall as much as they did in other states.
Dr. Wright’s most recent innovation includes the Mississippi Connects program, which provided every student in the state with a computer device to learn at school or at home. The program includes enhanced internet connectivity, high-quality digital content, professional development for teachers and administrators, digital learning coaches and the launch of telehealth/teletherapy in schools starting in the 2022-23 school year.
She also implemented the Mississippi Teacher Residency, which provides scholarships and mentors to aspiring teachers, and the Performance-Based Licensure program, which helps Mississippi teachers with provisional licenses become fully licensed. The next teacher residency cohort will provide graduate degree scholarships for 200 aspiring elementary and special education teachers.
Throughout her tenure as Mississippi’s state education chief, Dr. Wright has been an active member and leader of numerous national and state boards and organizations that advance the field of education. Notably, the U.S. Secretary of Education appointed her in 2019 to the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card. In 2022, Dr. Wright earned the Mississippi Top 50 Most Influential Leaders Award.
“Leading education in Mississippi has been the honor and privilege of my life. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have been given to work with dedicated educators and leaders across Mississippi, the entire Mississippi Department of Education team and committed State Board members and legislative leaders. Together we have worked to make a difference in the lives of children.” Dr. Wright said. “Most especially, I am incredibly proud of Mississippi students. There is no limit to what they can accomplish.”
The SBE will announce plans for Dr. Wright’s transition and its search for a new state superintendent of education once the details have been finalized.