Mississippi’s youngest students are seeing greater gains on state assessments.
For the second year in a row, nearly 40,000 Mississippi kindergartners took a state assessment known as the STAR Early Literacy Exam. It tests whether a student understands the building blocks of reading, do they know the alphabet, that you read left to right on the page, is this a story for fun or for learning and so on and so forth.
Kim Benton is the Chief Academic Officer at the Mississippi Department of Education. She says the test is invaluable.
"Having the ability to look at where a child is when they walk into the school door and then taking that information and teachers being able to provide supports and direct instruction that you can build on.
The test is given twice during the school year, in the fall and spring. This year's fall scores were nearly identical to those achieved by students last year, scoring 502 points on a 900 point test. However, students taking this year's second administration saw greater gains scoring 703 points compared to 680 in May 2015.
What's more is data collected by the Department of Education shows students who were enrolled in pre-k or the state's early learning collaboratives out-paced their contemporaries.
Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says the results stress the need for greater early education programs in Mississippi.
"We've got the evidence that it works," says Wright. "We've got the powerful evidence that, over time, it is much cheaper to invest in education in early childhood than it is to remediate on the middle or high school ages."
Late last year, the legislative Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review issued a report calling into question the effectiveness of the state's early learning program.