More than half of Mississippi’s schoolchildren didn’t score ‘kindergarten-ready’

More than half of Mississippi’s schoolchildren didn’t score ‘kindergarten-ready’

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Department of Education has released the Fall 2019 Kindergarten-Readiness Assessment results.

It showed that only 36.6% of students scoring ‘kindergarten-ready’ this year, which is similar to the percentage from the last four years.

“I taught pre-K, kindergarten and then I’m back in pre-K," said Johanna Lebern, who teaches pre-K in Pearl. "And one of the things I noticed when I was in kindergarten was that we had a lot of kids coming to us that were not ready.”

It’s something the state is working to change. In the Pearl Public School District, they saw their scores on the kindergarten readiness test and realized it was time to bring back their pre-K program five years ago.

“A lot of our parents didn’t have the monetary means to send their children to a quality, private daycare that would provide the educational piece that they were missing,” explained Pearl Lower Elementary Principal Canda Jackson.

Some of the children in the classrooms may look like they’re playing, but interacting with other children and motor skills are a critical part of preparing them for kindergarten.

“The social skills that they’re getting here are absolutely one of the most important things we do, in our opinion," added Lebern. "They need to learn how to communicate and use language to do so.”

Identifying letters, numbers, shapes and colors may seem small, but it’s the building blocks they need and it translates to less remediation in the following school years.

“We know that that third grade reading assessment is comprehension," noted Pearl Northside Elementary Principal Nikki Graham. "But you can’t pass the comprehension if they don’t have the reading skills that they need.”

And they don’t want to see students behind before they ever begin.

“Plus you still have to get them prepared with the second and third grade standards," said Graham. "So it’s like you’re trying to close large gaps and it’s difficult if they don’t have those foundational skills.”

Preschool isn’t required in Mississippi, but the state has been taking steps in recent years to expand early childhood learning and that means expanded access for families and children.

Copyright 2019 WLBT. All rights reserved.