DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Thousands of Mississippi teens can't read well enough to graduate high school. Statewide, almost 2,200 failed one of four tests required to graduate, but it's not all bad news for DeSoto County.
The state says students are improving. Fewer failed this year compared to last. Numbers for the northern part of the state vary from county to county.
"The state does not put enough credence in education, especially in reading and writing in younger children," says parent Alicia Koeppel.
"In English we really just read books. We don't really learn much English, we just keep re-learning the same things we learned in 5th grade," says her son Jon.
They aren't surprised so many Mississippi students are having trouble in school, especially English. But teachers like Michael Evans are.
"Even in subjects like math and science they're constantly pushing grammar, English, literature and reading," he says.
DeSoto County is the second largest school district in the state. Historically it has the best test scores.
According to the Department of Education, 83 percent of DeSoto county students passed the English test. In Marshall County, 68 percent passed. The number is much lower in Tunica County, 42 percent.
"It's a shame," Evans says. "We can only do so much as teachers because it starts at home."
The Koeppels are originally from Connecticut and see a big difference in education between states.
"For a half hour at any point during the day no matter what you were doing everyone had to stop, drop what they were doing and pull out a book and read," Alicia says.
She believes it all boils down to one thing: "Connecticut has a lot more money to put into it. I think what our teachers are doing in DeSoto County is fantastic for what they have to work with."
Almost 29,000 teens took the tests. Jackson Public School District is the state's largest and it had the highest number of failures.