Hattiesburg program aims to improve students' reading - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg program aims to improve students' reading comprehension


Mary Jo Jackson, Director of Compass Learning, spends five days out of the week making sure each one of her student's reading level is up to par. It's a task she brings home with her every night.

"11 o'clock at night I am still working on the computer posting, because you have to do a certain about of work every night regardless," said Jackson.

She pours this kind of dedication into the program. It's an extension of the Aldersgate Mission, started by Main Street United Methodist Church in downtown Hattiesburg.

"40 years ago a women's group from Main Street United Methodist Church were concerned about the children here at Briarfield Apartments. They felt like maybe the kids were going to need help with getting their homework done in the afternoon. They noticed that the kids were not participating in school as well as they could,"said Jackson.

Jackson recalls the mission started as tutoring, but Compass Learning began when Jackson and professors from Southern Miss realized a bigger need.

"The kids were having problems in the reading area, and slipping further and further behind each year," said Jackson.

Jackson struggled to bridge high schoolers reading from a 6th grade level to comprehending the ACT, even teaching one child how to read all together.

"We went back all the way into the preschool area with her," said Jackson.

Extra attention works, but Jackson says they now have reading programs on computers that not only strengthen the kids reading but also tests where they are lacking.

"They take a pre-test and it will tell me what they're deficient in, we make a working path for them then they work on that path and then take a post-test. At the end of the post-test, we all find out how all the deficiencies come to par and if they all have then we can move them to the next level, " said Jackson.

The first year Jackson set a goal of having 50 percent of the kids go up one reading level.

"We exceeded our goal.  75 percent of our children have gone up one reading level,"said Jackson.

Pride is what you hear in Jackson's voice when she mentions the successes of the kids.

"We have children that were able to get scholarships through our Aldersgate Mission and go on to college. We have a preschool at Main Street United Methodist Church, and one of the children that grew up in our Aldersgate program is now a teacher there," said Jackson.  

Jackson believes this program will continue to grow one step at a time, and the next step will be a math program for the children.

Jackson says volunteers are always needed at Compass Learning. If you would like to volunteer or make a donation of any kind contact Mary Jo Jackson at 601-297-5042.

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