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Mississippi Focuses Reading Policies on Young Learners

• Cari Miller

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 88 percent of students who fail to graduate high school were struggling readers in third grade. That’s why ensuring all kids can read by the end of third grade is critical for their future success—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thanks to the Mississippi Legislature for recognizing this by establishing the Literacy-Based Promotion Act in 2013.

This program is a comprehensive reading policy that places a laser-like focus on early literacy from Kindergarten through third grade to help ensure all students read on grade level before they enter fourth grade. The instant it became law, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) hit the ground running, strategically planning for the implementation of the policy. No matter how fantastic a policy may be, it’s only as good as its implementation. Fortunately for the kids in Mississippi, MDE is well on their way toward successful implementation.

MDE has provided reading coaches in their lowest performing schools to help teachers master the teaching of reading to improve student reading achievement. In addition, MDE has provided professional development to many teachers and principals across the state to equip them with the knowledge and skills to effectively deliver reading instruction and intervention to meet the needs of all students. They are expanding this training to more teachers and principals for the 2014-2015 school year. MDE has also established a common assessment tool to help schools and teachers identify students that need additional reading help so they can catch them up with their peers. The common assessment tool also monitors student reading performance regularly so instructional adjustments can be made to meet the specific needs of each and every student.

Reading is not just a subject; it is the foundation for all learning. When you can read, you can learn. Governor Bryant, the Legislature and the Mississippi Department of Education all recognize this and have made this policy a priority in the Magnolia State. I’m excited to see the work being done in Mississippi—a state that recognizes the importance of a child being able to read by the end of third grade. Great things are coming for Mississippi students!

About the author

Cari Miller

Cari Miller serves as Policy Director of Early Literacy for ExcelinEd. She works hand in hand with states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy, and she supports state departments with effective policy implementation. Cari is a former elementary teacher and reading coach. She also served as the Deputy Director of Just Read, Florida!, Governor Jeb Bush’s statewide literacy initiative. At Just Read, Florida!, she served in other capacities, including: Elementary Reading Specialist, Director of Reading First and Director of Elementary Reading. Her sole mission is to improve student reading achievement across the nation.