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Mississippi lawmakers Prepare to Tackle Education In 2013

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Dec 2012 08:33pm | comments

Members of the Mississippi's legislature are getting a sneak peak at what could make up an education reform agenda during the 2013 session. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports a joint committee hearing focused on a few key goals, such as improving the reading skills of third graders.

The house and senate education committees are laying the ground work for a possible education reform agenda next legislative session.

Both committees met Jackson yesterday.

Mary Laura Bragg with the Foundation for Excellence in Education in Florida told lawmakers that Florida has made big educational gains by making sure third graders can read at a third grade level, even if that means holding them back a year.

"Almost 90% of kids who dropped out of high school, were struggling readers in third grade. So if you can get to them before they leave third grade and ensure they have reading skills, you can keep a whole lot of kids from dropping out," Bragg said.

Bragg stressed the importance of targeted instruction to prevent the need to hold students back.

Claiborne Barksdale, of the Barksdale Reading Institute, says that extra intervention costs a lot of money.

"The question that never got asked is how much does this cost? I mean this is going to be expensive. To put coaches into schools is expensive. To put on this summer reading camp is expensive. To put on a summer reading academy for every K-3 teacher in Mississippi, that is roughly 10-to-12 thousand teachers, that is expensive," Barksdale said.

Senate education committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford says the state can find the money...if law makers truly want to improve reading scores.

"Its going to take some money but honestly we can redirect money and re-purpose money that is out there now and use our existing resources and focus on this area. I think when the Governor, and the legislature, and the Lt. Governor and the Speaker are saying 'we think this is a priority' it is going to tell educators and communities out there that we need to improve our third grade reading proficiency," Tollison said.

The committees also heard an explanation of the state's trial teacher evaluation system, and went line-by-line through a draft charter school expansion bill during the four hour hearing.

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