JACKSON, Miss.–Mississippi is getting ready for the Third Grade Gate. It’s not the fence around the school. If your child is having trouble reading and cannot read by the end of the third grade, holding them back may be the only option. As of Tuesday, though, more help is on the way.
A grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is giving $2.4 million to make more reading coaches available to Mississippi kids.
The money goes to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to train board certified teachers to serve as literacy coaches in Mississippi schools.
Mississippi ranks seventh in the country both for the number of newly certified teachers and the total number of certified teachers. Research proves that highly qualified teachers have a positive effect on student achievement, said a news release from Gov. Bryant’s office.
“We know that children must be able to read in order to succeed, and we know that highly-qualified teachers have a positive effect on student achievement,” said Bryant. “Mississippi teachers work hard to foster learning among their students, and we are proud of their efforts. This support from the Kellogg Foundation will enable the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to play an important role in developing literacy skills in Mississippi’s K-3 classrooms.”
The whole point is to make sure children are not making it past the third grade if they cannot read proficiently. That way, in theory, they do not end up as illiterate adults, said Dr. Laurie Smith, who served as executive director of Mississippi Building Blocks.
LAURIE SMITH AUDIO
“It really provides some early screening for children. Students will now be screened in Kindergarten, first grade, second grade and third grade, three times each time. So, if there’s any type of early sign of a reading deficiency, it would show up.”
She said teachers would offer extra help and special education may even be used to bolster the learning process.
Retention would only happen as a last resort, said Smith.
“Holding kids back by itself, makes absolutely no difference in a child’s outcomes, but we also know what Florida and nine other states did was to offer some extra help. So that repeating year of third grade will be very different than the year they’ve already taken.”
Bryant’s camp said he believes that reducing illiteracy could help with reducing crime and other social problems that could result from people not being able to read.