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Bogue Chitto meets goals for literacy

The state’s literacy coaches made such great advances at Bogue Chitto Elementary, the school will no longer be part of the program.

Bogue Chitto is one of nine elementary schools where the Mississippi Department of Education deployed literacy coaches to help teachers become more effective. Teachers have achieved sustained academic improvements, however, and no longer need coaching support.

Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act of 2013 established the literacy coach program, which assigns coaches to schools in which third-grade students have the lowest literacy skills. Coaches work closely with teachers and school leaders to improve instructional strategies and to ensure a school climate that advances literacy and academic goals.

Principal Scott Merrell hates to see the coaches go.

“There’s a negative connotation for most people to have a literacy support in your school because that indicates some deficiency at some point in the past,” he said. “But I’m all for as much help and as much support as I can get to help these kids do the best they can.”

Some schools need full support of the coaches, which puts them on campuses several times a month. Bogue Chitto’s last year in the program saw visits just a few times a year.

The coaches worked with teachers, helping them come up with more successful methods for preparing students for testing.

The continued coaching has helped students improve their reading scores so much the school is no longer part of the program.

Even so, Merrell asked them to come back “as often as they can in the future even if the school doesn’t qualify for service.”

The coaches — teachers from various Mississippi school districts who are experts in the literacy field — were surprised to be asked to return. They told Merrell everyone is always in a hurry to complete the program and send them on their way.

“I was the first person to ever ask them to come back even though I didn’t need them,” he said. “I wanted as much help as I could get.”

The Literacy-Based Promotion Act focuses on prevention and intervention to help children develop the reading skills required for fourth grade. The law requires third-grade students to meet reading standards by the end of the school year to be promoted to fourth grade.

Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, third-grade students must score at level 3 or higher on the reading portion of the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program English Language Arts test to qualify for promotion to fourth grade. In previous years, students had to score at level 2 or higher to qualify for promotion.