The State Education Department reported that Mississippi had its highest four-year graduation rate and its lowest dropout rate in five years. Officials from the state education department said that the high school graduation rate rose more than two percentage points to 80.8 percent last year, bringing it closer to the national rate of 80 percent. The rate last year was 78.1 percent. Students dropped slightly to 11.8 %, which is the lowest dropout rate in five years. Rosemary Aultman, a member of the state board for education, said that this was a “great day” for Mississippi after the data were presented to her. Recent changes to the state’s graduation pathways include the ability for seniors who failed their end-of-course tests to add their score to their course score to satisfy the graduation requirement. The subject area test will now count for 25% of a student’s final grade in the 2016-2017 academic year. Students can also demonstrate mastery by scoring a 17 on the ACT in a particular subject. Carey Wright, the state superintendent, said that the increased rate is not due to the lack of additional pathways. Wright stated that “I believe more important, we have raised the rigor of high schools and provided more professional development for teachers.” “We’ve built them their capacity, and we believe giving children more options is good.” Enterprise School District had a 98% graduation rate for students who entered high schools in the 2011-2012 school year. It graduated in 2016 with 98 percent. Students in special education, including students with autism, attention deficit disorder, and learning disabilities, are still struggling. In 2016, only 33.6 percent of students graduated, one of the lowest rates in the country. These students are at 63 percent of the national average. However, one school district is defying this trend. Long Beach School District’s special education students graduated with a traditional diploma at 89 percent. Susan Molesworth, the district’s special education director, says that a large part of this is due to the fact that many of its special educators are certified in their content area. Molesworth stated that students benefit from a teacher who has special education knowledge and content knowledge. Molesworth also mentioned the willingness of teachers to help struggling students outside school hours and the decision of the district to place special education teachers into courses this group of students has traditionally struggled with, even though they aren’t in areas like geometry. J.P. Beaudoin is chief of research and develop. He believes the department’s increased attention to this area has contributed to an increase in overall graduation rates. Beaudoin stated that the department’s increased focus on metrics and what they measure shows a lot of improvement in these metrics. The state’s youngest students also saw improvements. This academic year, the majority of state’s kindergarteners scored higher on their assessments than the previous school year. This test measures skills such as reading from left to right on a page and matching letters to sounds. Kim Benton, chief academic office for the department, stated that literacy has a significant impact on student learning.