Pine Belt Superintendents discuss the "Third Grade Gate" law

Published: Feb. 17, 2015 at 7:30 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2015 at 7:55 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Due to the “Third Grade Reading Gate” law, all third graders in the state must prove that they can read proficiently or they will be held back at the end of the school year.

“We don't know what the cut scores are, matter of face we don't even know what the test looks like,” said Hattiesburg School District Superintendent of Education James Bacchus

Superintendents of education in the Pine Belt area say it's hard to know where their students stand since the state hasn't given the test's specifics.

“You know, when I can't answer to a parent, What's the cut score that we are shooting for with third grade? That's hard to say. I don't know,” said Lamar County Superintendent of Education Tess Smith

Nonetheless all agree the educators in their districts are doing the best they can

“Teach the standards, focus on the students, and we know we are going to succeed in the end because we have great teachers in place,” said Petal School District Superintendent of Education Matthew Dillion.

The test is supposed to be given in April, but time is ticking and there is a lack of clarity on requirements. Therefore, last week Representative Lataisha Jackson offered an amendment that passed putting a one year hold on the reading gate. That bill is now headed to the Senate.

Governor Phil Bryant said, “With votes like this, it is little wonder that Mississippi's public education system has been an abysmal failure.”

Dillion has a few words on the governor's comment.

“We aren't a failure. We are doing great things in our district and throughout the state,” said Smith. “I'm excited to be associated with public education.”

All superintendents agree that pushing the test back a year has it's pros and cons

“Time to of course review data; to find out what exactly they want us to do because we don't even have all of those facts now,” said Smith. So it would give us a year to get all of that ready and prepare our teachers, but one concern would be that we would have third graders that are now in fourth grade. We would be trying to remediate those children who are having some deficits.”

Hattiesburg Superintendent James Bacchus says making kindergarten mandatory would help give educators more time to meet the standards.

“We can't guarantee that all of our kids come to us ready or at the same level. We well know that parents are our kids first teacher, the things that many our kids should know by first grade there is a lot of gaps,” said Bacchus. “According to the Kindergarten Readiness Evaluation only 35% of children come to first grade ready.”

Forrest County Public School Administration were not available for comment by the time this story aired. 

Copyright 2015 WDAM. All rights reserved.