School Districts Put the Spotlight on Literacy in Preparation for 3rd Grade Testing, Success in the Classroom

School Districts Put the Spotlight on Literacy in Preparation for 3rd Grade Testing, Success in the Classroom
Mississippi Department of Education logo. Photo source MDE

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - This is a press release from the Mississippi Department of Education

Expanded reading times, reading intervention for struggling students, parent meetings and community support for literacy are all ways school districts have worked to prepare students and parents for the first administration of the 3rd Grade Reading Summative Assessment. Students in 3rd grade across the state will take the assessment for the first time beginning Friday.

"I am proud of school districts making the concerted effort to help students and to educate parents ahead of this assessment," said Dr. Kim Benton, chief academic officer at the Mississippi Department of Education. "I am also thrilled that school districts have committed time and resources to elevate literacy across the grades and to support struggling readers so that students can succeed throughout their education."

The assessment will be administered in public schools statewide during the testing window of April 10-23, 2015. Students who do not pass the test the first time will be given two opportunities to retest. The first retest window is May 18-22, 2015. The second retest opportunity will take place between June 29 and August 7, 2015.

Mississippi's Literacy-Based Promotion Act requires 3rd grade students to read at or above grade level in order to be promoted to 4th grade. Under the law, a student scoring at the lowest achievement level on the 3rd Grade Reading Summative Assessment will be retained in 3rd grade, unless the student meets the good cause exemptions for promotion as specified in the law.

Although all school districts have worked to emphasize reading and literacy across grades, here is a sampling of what some school districts have done:

Clinton Public Schools: Every spring the district conducts a community-wide children's book drive. Books collected are sorted by reading level and given away to K-5th graders at the end of the school year, in hopes they'll read during the summer. More than 25,000 books have been distributed in the past five years. There are children in the district who don't have easy access to books when they're not at school, and they're trying to put books in their homes.

Because of increased enrollment this year, CPS is trying to collect nearly 10,000 books so each K-5 student will receive four each. The ambitious goal has been supported by two grants and community partners.

Choctaw County School District: The school district ensures students master the skills required in each grade. Kindergarten through 2nd grade students have reading and English Language Arts targets that they must meet each year to be prepared for 3rd grade.

Students who are missing their benchmarks are provided an intensive intervention program during the second half of the school year. "The key to our success is early detection so the student can be placed in an intervention program with ample time to improve," said Glen Beard, superintendent.

Corinth Public School District: Reading has become a community project through the assistance of a $349,000 grant. The Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant will impact children from birth through high school as well as adults throughout the community. The school district's program is called Project REACH (Reading Expands A Community's Horizons).

Some of the highlights of the program include:

  • A community goal of reading 100,000 books by May 2016.
  • Bright Red Bookshelves will be placed around the community so that children will have access to reading material. The school district will conduct a book drive for individuals to donate gently used books for the bookshelves. Children and adults will be able to borrow books and return them to the bookshelves.
  • A community-wide reading project where everyone reads the same book and participate in activities around that book.

Hattiesburg Public School District: Each elementary school in HPSD hosts Literacy Boost Camps for 3rd grade readers to help lift their literacy skills ahead of the 3rd Grade Reading Assessment. All 3rd graders in HPSD are welcome and students who are having difficulty reading on grade level are encouraged to attend. The camps are from 9 a.m.–noon on Saturdays, the final one on April 11. Lunch is provided and there is no cost for students. Businesses in the community are donating breakfast and lunch for the students.

Quitman School District: Quitman School District hosted a community-wide read as a kick-off for their school year. Using E. B. White's book, "The Trumpet of the Swan," Quitman School District invited the whole community to read and learn together. Free copies of the book were provided to all families with a student in the school. Other community members were encouraged to purchase the book at a discount from the school. Everyone received a weekly reading plan, as well as ideas on how to extend connections to their world.

School districts, such as Copiah County, Jackson Public Schools (JPS), Lauderdale County, Lowndes County, Rankin County, Starkville and Simpson County, have all focused on strong literacy instruction and provided direct supports to students as needed. Ongoing evaluations of student progress informed their decisions. Starkville credits its success to helping students “own” their literacy growth through individual improvement goals.

JPS and Pearl River County School District also hosted parent informational meetings.