Mississippi’s Third Grade Gate: Providing Students with the Keys to Unlock the Gate

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Mississippi’s Third Grade Gate: Providing Students with the Keys to Unlock the Gate

In 2013, the Governor signed Senate Bill 2341, Mississippi’s 3rd Grade Literacy Retention Promotion Act. This new law focuses on improving literacy skills beginning in Kindergarten and extending through 3rd grade. It takes the learning abilities from “learning to read” and equips children with the proper skills to “read to learn” by the time they enroll in 3rd grade. Implementing this program in our education systems means that our students will have a centralized focus on reading comprehension and retention. The Act requires every school district to provide a strong reading-intensive based curriculum as well as an intervention for students displaying a substantial deficiency in reading. The Act mandates that the school district deny promotion from the 3rd to the 4th grade for any student whose deficiency is not remedied before the end of 3rd grade.

The Act, to be put into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, will not only impact the students, but also the teachers and most importantly, parents of the students. Everyone in education will be affected by the implementation of this new law. Students who are retained in the 3rd grade are mandated to receive a package of intensive reading instruction and supports when the student is required to repeat the 3rd grade, including special smaller classes and “higher performing instructors” with a demonstrated record of student improvement.

Immediately after determining a student’s reading deficiency, the parents must be notified with a written document stating:

  • Student(s) has been identified as exhibiting reading deficiency
  • Description of the services the student is currently receiving from the district
  • Description of supplemental instructional services and support which the district is planning to provide in order to help over the deficiency
  • Notification that the child will not be promoted from the 3rd grade if the deficiency is not corrected
  • Information indicating that the state reading test is only the initial determining factor as to reading capacity, it is not the sole determinant
    (info from Southern Echo Third Grade Gate Act summary)

The (MS) Center for Education Innovation supports all efforts that accelerate learning at all levels, but we must work to ensure that parents, students, educators, business and community leaders can provide the necessary tools to ensure that schools have the support they need to prepare and assist students in meeting higher standards. Higher standards and policies which require higher standards without the necessary funding, staffing, and resources, do not equate to students being successful and can prove to be detrimental if not adequately supported. This Mississippi model was based on the state of Florida’s program. Unlike Mississippi, Florida has invested millions into its program. We cannot and should not expect the same results without the necessary investments and supports in place for our children. Additionally, numerous research reports highlight the fact that students who are retained at any point in their K-12 education increase their chances of dropping out of school before 12th grade. This alone should cause us to be alarmed – especially when it comes to our most vulnerable student populations. We must take urgent and intentional actions at all levels to make sure students are not negatively impacted in this process.

Communities, faith-based organizations, education stakeholders, and others can take a number of actions that will help prepare students for this major change and provide them with keys that will allow them with the opportunity to “unlock” the 3rd Grade gate. Although the Act will begin making changes in the system for this school year (2014 – 2015), there are ways to prepare your children for the new change.

Some of the keys include:

  • Attend school board meetings and monitor actions related to this and other education policies that may adversely impact students
  • Ensure that young children are either being read to or are reading every day – even before birth – 8 years of age (3rd grade).
  • Provide a print rich environment (access to newspapers, magazines, books, etc.) at home, school, church, and community.
  • Set up a Children’s Sabbath (for more details see www.childrensdefense.org) at your place of worship or a community event like a reading fair dedicated to children
  • Ensure that children in your family, community, or church have access to high quality affordable consistent early childhood learning and development programs (i.e. HeadStart, local childcare programs, etc.)
  • Make going to the library a habit – sign children up for every available library program offered
  • Create family reading time
  • Establish reading fairs in your church or community
  • Know, monitor, and assess your child’s reading ability regularly
  • Look for reading problems and take immediate action to solve them and if necessary seek a tutor – great untapped resource are retired school teachers
  • Identify and use creative aids to make reading exciting and fun (i.e. act out a book, create a fun Q & A game about a book)
  • Communicate regularly with your children’s teachers and school administrators
  • Provide children with enriching after-school and summer programming that include a strong reading component and prevent “summer slide” (i.e. Peer Power, Freedom School, other similar programs)

For more specific assistance, visit this link for 25 Ways to Increase a Child’s Reading Skills

Other examples that can be shared that are specific to technology include but are not limited to:

  1. Use input devices (e.g., mouse, keyboard, remote control) and output devices (e.g., monitor, printer) to successfully operate computers, ipads, audiotapes, and other technologies.
  2. Use a variety of media and technology resources for directed and independent learning activities.
  3. Communicate about technology using developmentally appropriate and accurate terminology.
  4. Use developmentally appropriate multimedia resources (e.g., interactive books, educational software, elementary multimedia encyclopedias) to support learning.
  5. Work cooperatively and collaboratively with peers, family members, and others when using technology in the classroom and at home.
  6. Demonstrate positive social and ethical behaviors when using technology.
  7. Practice responsible use of technology systems and software.
  8. Create developmentally appropriate multimedia products with support from teachers, family members, or student partners.
  9. Use technology resources (e.g., puzzles, logical thinking programs, writing tools, digital cameras, drawing tools) for problem solving, communication, and illustration of thoughts, ideas, and stories.
  10. Gather information and communicate with others using telecommunications, with support from teachers, family members, or student partners.

It is up to all of us to make sure that our most vulnerable students gain access to more educational opportunities and are not “locked out” of them by a “gate”. As families, communities, churches, and schools, we must approach this with urgency and intentionality in order to ensure student success. We cannot sit idly by and wait for others to do what is necessary. On this issue and others, the (MS) Center for Education Innovation is “Child focused” and “Solution driven”. For more solutions and more information, visit our website at www.mscei.com and like our Facebook page


overcoming the third Grade Gate