HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – As students return to school in the Pine Belt, they’re returning smarter than ever according to Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP).

Students and staff faced multiple challenges during the global pandemic. Challenges ranged from new ways of learning for students and the added fear that students were learning on different levels. Despite the challenges, students in the Pine Belt excelled, ranking at high levels in the statewide MAAP.

“When we talk about that, we talk about our students being strong being able to resist and overcome challenges. We talk about being being leaders about being persistent resilient but also working together as a community. So, it speaks the teachers the students but also our parents in our community, how we worked together over the past two to three years to really lock in on continuing to push our students towards excellence,” said Dr. Robert Williams with the Hattiesburg Public School District.  

While Hattiesburg Public Schools scored higher than the state average in every subject, so did Laurel Public Schools. The district ranked number one in the state in some areas.

“It says that they are focused, that they are driven by data. It says that that they are courageous enough to defy the odds. It says that they can do it again and again, and prove themselves to earn these top rankings,” said Dr. Kiana Pendleton, principal at Laurel Magnet School of the Arts.

Accountability grades for the 2021-22 school year will be released at the Mississippi State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, September 29.