They compared financial resources in the Madison County and Philadelphia public school districts and saw the impact that money has on the quality of education that can be offered in each.
MADISON Madison Avenue Upper Elementary School is surrounded by affluent neighborhoods and a well-manicured community park with a pond and playground.
Posters advertising a raffle for a chance to win a trip surround the entrance to the school.
T, about a major leak in the cafeteria.
Inside classrooms, students work furiously on benchmark assessments — tests given to mark their mastery of a subject and identify children who need extra help — on their Dell Chromebooks.
Kate Royals, Mississippi Today Madison Avenue Upper Elementary students take education and money which is the best assessments on Dell Chromebooks.
As in most states, property wealth is a large factor in how much funding Mississippi school districts receive in any given year.
While the Mississippi Adequate Education Program MAEP allocates funding based on student characteristics as well as necessary resources such as staffing and supply levels, local property value also plays a role.
But MAEP also contains a controversial component known as the 27 percent rule.
If the value of 28 mills raised in a school district is more than 27 percent of the total funding amount, the state provides the difference between the two amounts.
here Madison County School District falls into this category.
The resources it offers students are easy to see.
We get in, and we address them.
The law also provided funding for some literacy coaches across the state, but not nearly enough to place one at every school.
Technology is not lacking, thanks to more help from the PTO.
Parents provided Promethean boards, which are large, iPad-like interactive whiteboards, for every classroom in the building.
In addition to supporting technology, the PTO pays the salary of two art teachers who work with the students on Tuesdays while the regular teachers have weekly meetings.
All of the teachers at the school are highly qualified and nearly 10 percent are National Board Certified, the highest certification teachers can receive.
Hurst said she has no brand new teachers this school year.
Anna Garletts, a fifth grade English Language Arts instructor, has taught for 11 years, 10 of those in Madison County.
She spent her first year of teaching in Jackson Public Schools and recalls paying out of her own pocket for pencils and paper for her students.
If a teacher is struggling with curriculum or lessons and needs help outside the school, the district sends in curriculum specialists to work with him or her.
Principal Hurst said the school works closely with Madison Avenue Lower Elementary and analyzes education and money which is the best data on each student to identify which ones need extra help.
Each poster clearly indicates students who are failing, passing and proficient or advanced in each subject.
The approach works: Almost 70 percent of students were proficient in reading last year, with nearly the same in math and an impressive 93 percent proficiency rate in science.
The school also has two science labs, one on the third grade hall and another on the fifth grade hall.
For example, each year Hurst and other staffers, in conjunction with community members ranging from the mayor to members of law education and money which is the best, coordinate a huge night for the students.
Students used scientific methods to solve the staged crime of a stolen chandelier.
The school is also successful in its behavior and discipline practices.
The University of Southern Mississippi recognized it as the first model site in the county for its implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support, a method that encourages consistent expectations and rules, in addition to reinforcing students for good behavior, among other tactics.
Hurst said implementing some of the strategies cut bus and office referrals for discipline to nearly nonexistent numbers.
The high school boasts nearly 20 Advanced Placement AP classes as well as numerous electives and other academic pathways.
The Mississippi Department of Education recommends high schools offer at least four AP courses, one in each core subject.
But not all high schools are able to offer that many, according to education department spokeswoman Jean Cook.
The district was one of the first to implement education and money which is the best technology initiative giving each high school student his or her own MacBook Air laptop in the 2014 school year.
The students use the laptops both at school and at home.
High schoolers can also take college-level English and algebra courses at Holmes Community College and receive both high school and college credit.
Madison Central also offers two academic academies: an Academy of Engineering and an Academy of Multimedia and Communications.
But the success of the school goes deeper than beyond the availability of technology and gadgets to something more basic, according to Principal Austin Brown.
He sees the plethora of options for students as the key ingredient in their recipe for success: relationships.
And the approach appears to work: The school reported a graduation rate of 92 percent link year, well above the state and national average.
Brown said there is rarely a day that no one is stationed outside the school cafeteria talking to students about options.
She said she never has a problem with getting the resources she needs for her classes, but notes teachers also regularly apply for grants.
On a recent school day here, students participated in a routine day of learning — kindergarteners rolled out letters of the alphabet in play dough, older elementary schoolers used colorful flashcards to practice sounding out words, and at the high school, some students got up close and personal with a deer heart in biology class.
With a little more than 1,000 students, this central Mississippi district is split into two schools, an elementary and a high school.
The elementary campus houses pre-kindergarteners up to sixth graders, something Superintendent Lisa Hull said she would like to change but there is not enough room to move the sixth graders to the high school now.
Approximately a mile across town, the high school serves play online and win real 7-12.
Hull said that if funding were not an issue, she would hire additional teachers to reduce class sizes and add tutors so students could receive attention in smaller groups.
Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today Philadelphia School District Superintendent Lisa Hull poses with students.
Like many districts across the state, Philadelphia is facing a shortage of qualified teachers.
District food service coordinator Sarah Hardy said the program has been a wonderful thing.
Hull recounted a moment a few years ago when some of her teachers saw data from a new state test for the first time.
The group is also trying to create new STEM science, technology, engineering and math projects, Hull said.
She would like to increase access to dual-enrollment courses, but that also requires additional funding.
The halls and classrooms of Philadelphia Elementary School are brightly decorated with handmade signs, rainbow and alphabet rugs, student projects and colorful sheets of paper with reading instructions.
Much of it is paid for by teachers out-of-pocket, Philadelphia Elementary School Principal Jason Gentry said.
Teachers receive a few hundred dollars with education enhancement funds EEF provided by the state, but those are quickly spent on basic supplies so teachers often stock their classrooms on their own, he said.
Gentry would like to have more teachers on staff, but funding makes that difficult, he said.
Kayleigh Skinner reported from Philadelphia.
Kate Royals is a Jackson native who previously worked as a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government.
She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass.
She attended Millsaps College.
She has been recognized as a member of the 2018 class of the ProPublica and Ida B.
Wells Society Data Institute and a member of the 2016 Robert F.
Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award-winning team.
She is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Education Writers Association and the National Association of Black Journalists.
Before joining the Mississippi Today editorial team January 2017, Kayleigh worked for The Hechinger Report, The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Chalkbeat Tennessee.
Her work has also appeared on PBS Education and money which is the best.
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