3rd grade literacy scores to become stricter

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2018

Changes to the statewide grade 3 literacy requirements will soon make it more challenging for children to move on to the next grade.

According to the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, beginning in the 2018-2019 school year students will need to score above the two lowest achievement levels if they are going to move on to the fourth grade. Previously they only had to score above the first level. This change was scheduled in 2016 when Senate Bill 2157 was signed into law.

Picayune School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said teachers in the Picayune school district begin preparing their students to take the grade 3 literacy test as early as kindergarten. He said teachers of grades K-3 are given a copy of the standardized test and work towards ensuring their students meet those standards. Harrell said they periodically test their students to check that they are on track and see what kind of changes need to be made.

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Harrell said the third grade is when students start to make the change from simple word recognition, to reading comprehension. After third grade, more and more emphasis is put on comprehension, he said. Harrell said this developmental change is probably why the state decided to put this test in the third grade.

“I think we have an excellent group of teachers and they do a wonderful job work with our students,” Harrell said.

Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt said they are continuously analyzing their data to see what changes need to be made in instruction and to see how to best move forward into the new school year. He said an emphasis is placed on literacy year-round, from the beginning of the year to the end. In the summer, they review their data so they can inform teachers, parents and students exactly where they need to be.

Merritt said reading skills are necessary for educational development. He said if a child does not have a good grasp on reading, it makes it harder to learn other subjects – even mathematics.

“It’s a foundation that we’ve made a priority,” Merritt said.

According to statistics by the Mississippi Department of Education, for the school year ending in 2017 schools across Pearl River County had literacy test passing rates above the state average. The average passing rate in Mississippi in 2017 was 92 percent. The Pearl River County School District had a passing rate of 93.6 percent. The Picayune School District had a passing rate of 94.5 percent, although South Side Elementary had a passing rate of 91.5 percent. The Poplarville School District earned the highest passing rate at 94.6 percent.

Some schools are listed as Literacy Support Schools and have coaches who provide training and support for teachers. Roseland Park Elementary is the only Literacy Support School in the County and scored well above the state average. In 2017 Literacy Support Schools had an average passing rate of 87.5 percent, while Roseland Park’s passing rate was above 95 percent.