In 2002, Florida adopted a phonics-based reading strategy due to Charlie Christ. The scores started to climb. Other southern states have begun to follow suit, including Mississippi long considered the nation’s worst.
APNews: Mississippi fell from the second-worst state in 2013 for fourth-grade reading to 21st in 2022. Louisiana and Alabama, meanwhile, were among only three states with modest gains in fourth-grade reading during the pandemic, which has seen massive learning setbacks in most other states.
The turnaround in these three states has captured the attention of educators nationwide, showing that rapid progress is possible everywhere, even in areas that have struggled for decades with poverty and dismal literacy rates. States have passed laws enacting similar reforms that focus on phonetics and early screening for children in difficulty.
“In this region, we decided to go big,” said Burk, now a senior policy fellow at ExcelinEd, a national advocacy group.
These Deep Southern states were not the first to pass major literacy laws; in fact, much of Mississippi’s legislation was based on a 2002 law in Florida that saw the Sunshine State achieve some of the highest reading scores in the nation. States also still have a long way to go to ensure that every child can read.
But the country noticed what some called the Mississippi Miracle.
Addendum: See my previous posts on the closely related issue of direct instruction.
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