Mississippi must boost kindergarten readiness
Earlier this month, the Mississippi Department of Education released the results of a kindergarten readiness test taken by students across the state at the beginning of the school year.
The test was implemented by state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright after taking leadership of the state’s schools. It is designed to measure the effectiveness of early childhood education programs in the state. And its results reveal much about the need to expand pre-K programs in Mississippi.
Because students take the test at the beginning of their kindergarten year, the data does not reflect on the kindergarten program of the school where they took the test. Rather, it gives educational leaders insight into how well they were prepared to start school.
And the data was once again discouraging.
The percentage of students who scored kindergarten-ready was 36.1 percent in 2018, compared to 36.9 percent in 2017 and 36.4 percent in 2016.
Research shows that a test score of 530 indicates students are on track to become proficient readers by the end of third grade. However, only 16 of 141 school districts notched an average score of at least 530.
It’s no secret that Mississippi’s educational scores rank at the bottom of the nation. But part of the problem is that its students start so far behind where they need to be.
That only compounds the challenge for the state’s educators to bring them up to the grade-level standards.
Mississippi must do more to provide robust, highquality pre-K programs to large numbers of students throughout the state. The state was among the last in the country to provide any funding for pre-K. The program it eventually put into place — which provides grant funds to public and private pre-K early education collaboratives — has shown great success. In fact, the National Institute for Early Education Research recognized Mississippi this spring as one of five states whose publicly funded pre-K programs meet nine of NIEER’s 10 quality standards for early childhood education.
The problem is it’s too small. When the Legislature first passed the Early Learning Collaborative Act in 2013, it provided $3 million for the program. That funding was increased to $6.5 million for the current fiscal year.
The program only served 3 percent of 4-year-olds in 2016-17. Combined with district-funded pre-K programs, about 16 percent of Mississippi 4-year-olds attended public pre-K programs in 2016-17.
Mississippi must further invest in this program and find other ways to ensure the vast majority of its pupils enter kindergarten in a position to be successful.
Why the disclosure disparity at federal agencies? Hard to say, though the USDA has long been criticized by consumer advocates for being too cozy with the agricultural industry it is tasked with regulating. “This outbreak is just another example of the USDA putting corporate interests over the health of American families,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement last week. She is pushing legislation to define antibiotic-resistant salmonella as an adulterant in poultry products, which would make them subject to USDA’s mandatory recall authority. Multi-drug resistance has become a real threat to human health because of heavy use of antibiotics to prevent disease in poultry and livestock.
For now, it’s best to be exceptionally careful with turkey and closely follow cooking and safe handling recommendations. The same applies to chicken: The CDC is tracking an outbreak of antibioticresistant salmonella that has been reported in 29 states among 92 people who consumed various chicken products. The same strain has been found in samples from 58 undisclosed chicken processing facilities.