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Mixed results in kindergarten literacy improvements



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PDF file File: Fall 2014 Kindergarten Readiness Results

Andrew Hazzard



The results of Mississippi's first statewide assessment of kindergarten literacy show the majority of the state's youngest students made significant gains this academic year. 


More than 40,000 kindergartners from 144 districts took the STAR Early Literacy exam twice this school year -- once in the fall, once in the spring. Across the state, the average score for the fall test was 501. The average score climbed to 680 in the spring. 


In the Golden Triangle, some schools out-preformed the norm and others lagged. 


Columbus Municipal School District had below average improvements -- it scored 492 in the fall, 624 in the spring. Lowndes County School District results were above average -- the district scored 528 in the fall, 731 in the spring. 


In the Starkville School District, students scored along the state average -- it scored 522 in the fall, 693 in the spring.  


"These scores show that teachers have been equipping children with the foundational reading skills that are needed to progress in school," Dr. Kim Benton, chief academic officer for the Mississippi Department of Education, said. "Schools and teachers have been effective at helping students who start school unprepared exit kindergarten with beginning reading skills." 


Every district in the state showed progress among their kindergarten classes, though student achievement varied. 


Statewide, 56 percent of students scored above 675, which categorizes them as transitional readers. Students scoring at this level are beginning to read unfamiliar words and easy reader material, but are not yet independent readers. Among the 44 percent of students who scored below 675, most scored near the cusp of the transitional reader category. 


"The scores from this assessment are not intended to be used for decisions about student promotion or retention," Benton said. "Child development research tells us that all children learn at a different pace. Regardless of their score on this test, all children who complete kindergarten need support throughout the summer to continue developing their reading skills." 


The benchmark score for the fall kindergarten readiness assessment was 530. This score was used to determine whether children were ready for kindergarten learning. Based on the fall results, two out of every three students entered kindergarten lacking prerequisite skills. The spring test showed nine percent of kindergartners scored below 530.  


In addition to the STAR Early Literacy exam, the MDE has provided every school district in the state with a common set of literacy screeners to evaluate children's progress throughout the year. 


"We now have an objective measure of student progress in kindergarten," Wright said. "These test results will help schools make data-driven decisions that are in the best interest of their students."




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