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Mamie Martin tops state average in reading

The results of Mississippi’s statewide assessment of learning in pre-k and kindergarten show that the majority of the state’s youngest students have made significant gains during the academic year and students at Mamie Martin Elementary even surpassed the state average.

“We’re going to continue what’s working well for us,” said Rob McCreary, director of federal programs for the Brookhaven School District.

More than 36,000 kindergarteners took the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment in the fall and spring of the 2017-18 school year. The state average score for the fall test was 504. The average score climbed to 710 on the spring test.

The assessment helps schools determine if students are being prepared to enter first grade and if they are on the path to being fluent readers.

Testing 221 students, Mamie Martin kindergartners grew from a 487 in the fall to an impressive 726 in the spring, which is a full 16 points above the state average.

The goal is to start building a foundational base as soon as possible, said McCreary, who also served as principal at Mamie Martin.

“As they get to third grade, they’ve got that good base of reading,” he said. “That’s been the emphasis with us with preschool as well as kindergarten, to make sure they’ve got a good reading base.”

They use the LeapFrog curriculum which builds on phonics and reading, then uses that to build on math, colors and such.

Head Start offers a free preschool program but there are not enough spots for everyone, he said. The district also offers preschool for around $200 per child.

McCreary’s wish is that all children have access to preschool programs.

“Preschool helps those kids to get them ready,” he said. “You can just tell the difference in that kid getting off the bus that first day that can’t write his name, that doesn’t know his letters, that doesn’t know his colors. That’s just the thing that pre-school provides that gets those kids ready so that we’re not playing catch-up for the next two years to get that kid to where he needs to be.”

Dr. Carey Wright, the state superintendent of education, said the state results validate the hard work of kindergarten teachers across the state who have successfully helped students build their foundational literacy skills.

“Reading instruction must remain a major focus through the third grade and beyond so that all children develop strong reading skills. Reading is the gateway to learning,” she said.

Every district in the state showed progress among their kindergarten classes, though student achievement varied. District average scores ranged from 626 to 794.

Testing 241 students, Lincoln County School District kindergartners grew from a 516 in the fall to 696 in the spring.

The target end-of-year score for kindergarten is 681, and 123 school districts met or exceeded this target score. This score categorizes students as transitional readers. Students scoring at this level are beginning to read unfamiliar words and easy reader material but are not yet independent readers.

Progress in kindergarten remained steady from 2016-17 to 2017-18, with, 65 percent of kindergartners scoring at or above 681 both years. At the end of the 2015-16 school year, 63 percent met the target score, up from 54 percent in 2014-15.

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment evaluates skills such as the ability to recognize letters and match letters to their sounds and a student’s recognition that print flows from left to right. The exam produces reports for parents and teachers that detail each child’s early reading skills. Teacher reports also include diagnostic information and instructional plans for every student.