Amended Bill Holds 3rd Graders Harmless on New State Test

A bill that would hold Mississippi third-graders harmless for the first-year results of a new high-stakes reading test and delay retentions for one year could die without your help.

A majority of the House supports the amended version of the bill that allows children who don’t meet the (as of yet undetermined) cut score to progress to fourth grade while providing them the intensive remediation they need. Sources tell us that the leadership is likely to kill it. If the bill dies, thousands of third graders who would not otherwise be retained will be held back.

These are third-grade children who are being punished because of state leaders’ rush to score political points. So much of the focus of this literacy initiative has been on punitive repercussions for children rather than on providing resources that will result in better reading proficiency. In their haste to solve one problem, legislators have created a whole set of problems that are becoming nightmares for children and their families.

Tell your representative to insist that Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn allow children who do not meet the assessment cut score to progress to the fourth grade and provide them the intensive remediation they need to become proficient readers.

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

Ask Chairman Moore and Speaker Gunn to do what’s right for these children – allow them to progress and give them the remediation they need.

Chairman John Moore   Personal: 601.946.5833   Capitol: 601.359.3330

Speaker Philip Gunn   Personal: 601.924.8438   Capitol: 601.359.3300

The Mississippi Department of Education estimates that nearly 20 percent of third graders would fail the new assessment, based upon last year’s MCT2 scores. A survey of school districts by the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents reveals that the number of students retained based upon the assessment could be closer to 30 percent.

As one school board member said, “This year’s little third-graders are being treated like guinea pigs. We don’t know the cut scores, our teachers haven’t seen this test, we’ve not received funding to train our teachers, and parents are worried.” 

The House has until Friday to bring this bill off the calendar and pass it on to the Senate, ensuring that Mississippi third graders will get the interventions they need without being held back. Please make those calls.


Senate Passes Voucher Bill Sending State Funds to Unaccountable Private Schools

Today, the Senate chose private academies over students with special needs, passing SB 2695, the bill that provides vouchers to pay tuition at private schools that are not required to provide special education services to children. Astoundingly, 32 senators voted down an amendment that would have provided funding for direct services for up to 4,000 students with special needs who are enrolled in public, private, or home schools. The amendment also would have separated special education funding from other school funding, shining a light on the chronic underfunding of special education by the Legislature and requiring that these funds be spent only on special education. Finally, the amendment would have put an Autism Coordinator at the Mississippi Department of Education, a move requested repeatedly by the Autism Task Force. You can see your senator’s vote on that amendment here .

Instead, the Senate passed a privatization bill that gives 500 $7,000 debit cards to parents who agree to enroll their children in private schools that are not required to provide special services. The bill does nothing to ensure that Mississippi children are provided appropriate services, and it completely ignores the 60,000+ students with special needs in our chronically under-funded public schools. You can see your senator’s vote on the voucher bill here.

Important Bills Remain on the Calendar for Debate

Several important bills remain on the House and Senate calendars and are likely to be debated tomorrow, the deadline for initial floor action.

HB 479 – Reduces significantly funding for public schools by changing the way that the at-risk portion of the MAEP is calculated. Under HB 479, at-risk funding would be tied to standardized test scores rather than poverty. Research has shown consistently that poverty is the leading indicator of low student achievement. This bill punishes districts for moving students to proficiency, penalizes high performing districts with significant poverty rates, and diminishes the ability of districts to maintain proficiency rates among children in poverty who are achieving at high levels.

HB 394 – Provides state-funded vouchers for children with special needs to pay tuition at unaccountable private academies that are not required to offer special services or accommodations.

SB 2329 – Places an unfunded mandate on school districts to administer assessments to home-schooled students who want to participate in the district’s extra-curricular activities, in order to show that the home-schooled student meets the academic requirements for participation. The school district will receive no funding for the home-schooled students and the bill provides no compensation for the administering of the assessments.

The good news for the day is that the House passed an amended assistant teacher pay-raise bill that would increase the minimum annual salary paid to assistant teachers by $2,500, bringing the minimum salary to $15,000 per year. Click here to see the status of other bills we are following.

Please make sure your legislators understand how detrimental these bills would be to Mississippi children and their schools.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for you and the thousands of other Mississippians who are standing in the gap for our kids. I can’t imagine where our public schools would be without you. What a blessing you are to our children and our state!

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