The Education Commission for the States, a once reputable organization, recently decided to honor Mississippi with the 2016 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation.

Among other things, Mississippi was honored for expanding charter schools, prioritizing early literacy, and adopting an A-F grading system for schools (invented by Jeb Bush), which closely tracks the family incomes of students. Maybe Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan should have gotten the Frank Newman Award for Innovation. Mississippi was just going with the flow.

Unmentioned in the award was that the Governor and State Legislature of Mississippi fought successfully just a few months ago to block an increase in state funding for the public schools of Mississippi.

Also unmentioned is that Mississippi has adopted the strategy of not promoting third graders unless they pass a standardized test, which has no evidence of success. About 15% of students do not pass, although some will qualify for a “good cause exemption.” The law was amended this year to raise the bar and flunk more children.

The ECS statement says that Mississippi saw “historic gains” on NAEP at both 4th and 8th grades. But this is not true. The state registered no gains in eighth grade, in either mathematics or reading. There were gains in fourth grade, but Mississippi is nonetheless one of the lowest performing states in the nation.

What kind of standards does ECS have for making this award? Is the award meant to recognize states that refuse to fund their schools adequately and that enact legislation to privatize the public schools and to penalize students?