MDE to host symposium on Coast for reading instructors


The Mississippi Department of Education will host its first Literacy Coaching Symposium this summer, aimed at educators who work most specifically in reading instruction.

The department's Office of Elementary Education and Reading will host the one-day event June 7, right before the 2016 Making Connections Conference at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

The implementation of the Literacy Based Promotion Act last year -- better known as "third-grade reading gate" -- has pushed educators to put an even greater emphasis on reading skills and the symposium reflects that.

The policy requires all third-graders to score above a set level on an end-of-year reading test before they are promoted to fourth grade. When the bill passed in 2013, educators, though lauding its intent, expressed concern about a lack of funding and resources to properly help children prepare for the test.

Third-graders got three tries at the exam. On the first test, 85 percent of third-graders statewide passed. After the third, that number jumped to 91 percent. On the Coast, pass rates varied from 76 to 100 percent.

The state House this month passed a bill that would raise standards on the test further. The bill is now in the Senate.

The June symposium is designed to provide support and instruction for literacy coaches, reading specialists, instructional coordinators and administrators.

"With the implementation of the Literacy Based Promotion Act, we have seen firsthand the powerful impact that a skilled coach can have on instruction," said Kim Benton, the Mississippi Department of Education's chief academic officer. "Drawing on this experience, we have secured some of the most highly regarded trainers in the nation to design an intensive institute.

"It is our goal to equip participants with the skills necessary to support teachers in their respective districts as they provide students with rigorous reading instruction."