Mississippi’s reading scores improve dramatically over last decade

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 7:42 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Other states are taking notice of Mississippi’s education system, specifically our reading scores. But a decade ago, we were the brunt of their jokes.

The change in scores has been the result of intentional changes, including your kids stepping up to the plate.

Mississippi has gone from 49th in 2013 to 21st in 2022 in fourth-grade reading scores. But it wasn’t by accident.

“There is this ‘Mississippi miracle’ phrase,” said Kristen Wynn, Mississippi State Literacy Director. “I mean, it does something to us I think because it really... it’s not for us a miracle that we took the time to stop and say there is a problem. And we need to fix this problem. But instead, it was a lot of hard work, nine to ten years of hard work.”

The state recognized the problem and started looking at ways to turn the tide. Even further back, Jim Barksdale made a $100,000,000 investment in 2000 that started the Barksdale Reading Institute.

“We worked shoulder to shoulder with teachers to improve how they were teaching reading using evidence-based practices,” explained Kelly Butler, CEO of the Barksdale Reading Institute. “We introduced coaching to the state and high-quality materials, purposeful interventions, and really created a literacy block and literacy model. So when the Literacy-Based Promotion Act passed in 2013, the state was really ready to take this model to scale.”

That act is relatively simple. Third graders have to pass the test in order to advance to fourth grade.

Here’s why that window of time is particularly important.

“Kindergarten through second grade and around third-grade students are learning to read, they are developing the foundational knowledge that they need when we’re looking at phonics instruction,” noted Wynn. “And we know that. So by the time they move on to fourth grade, they start to transition to reading to learn.”

Since the reading gate was put into practice, the state’s gone back and upped the passing score.

“Now students have to score a level three or above, which puts them closer to proficiency,” added Wynn. “And so that’s what we want. So, our students have leveled all the way up.”

This year’s initial pass rate for the third-grade reading gate will be released Thursday. Last year, those scores were nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please click here to report it and include the headline of the story in your email.