Literacy – SB 2347. This conference report misses the boat entirely. It does not require that children in K-3rd be screened for reading deficiencies; rather it makes the screening optional (line 55: “may”). Therefore, many children with reading deficiencies will never be identified before they reach third grade. Reading coaches, the most effective means of improving reading instruction, are not provided. While only a few schools will receive training and assistance, and many students will not have their deficiencies identified, the retention requirements apply to all children and are even more stringent than those imposed in Florida (only standardized assessments are allowed as evidence of reading mastery in this report, Florida allows evidence of reading mastery through a portfolio of work samples). The $9.5-million appropriated is woefully inadequate – it is the equivalent of only 4% of Florida’s per student expenditure on its successful program. The unfunded mandates in the program include 90 minutes of required reading instruction and a high performing teacher for retained children and a supervisory position, parent notification, and a read-at-home plan that are required of every K-3 school. Ask your legislator to recommit the report for further work.
Pre-K – SB 2395. The conference report provides matching grants for communities that develop a plan to provide high quality pre-k classes for 4-year-old children. Too many Mississippi children arrive in kindergarten so far behind that it is impossible for them to catch up. A high quality pre-k program can have a tremendous impact on their school-readiness and give these children a shot at a successful future. Ask your legislator to vote yes.
Education Works – SB 2658. The conference report on Governor Bryant’s Education Works program is an important step toward attracting more of our best and brightest into the field of education. It provides scholarships for top-tier students and a pilot program for merit pay. Ask your legislator to vote yes.