Mississippi Receives Funding to Train Additional Literacy Coaches for Third Grade Gate

JACKSON—The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards $2.4 million in support to train board certified teachers to serve as literacy coaches in Mississippi schools. The grant award comes as Mississippi is preparing to implement the Third Grade Gate, a policy that requires third graders to meet minimum literacy benchmarks before being promoted to fourth grade.

Research proves that highly qualified teachers have a positive effect on student achievement. Mississippi ranks 7th in the nation both the number of newly certified teachers and the total number of certified teachers.

“We know that children must be able to read in order to succeed, and we know that highly-qualified teachers have a positive effect on student achievement,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “Mississippi teachers work hard to foster learning among their students, and we are proud of their efforts. This support from the Kellogg Foundation will enable the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to play an important role in developing literacy skills in Mississippi’s K-3 classrooms.”

The National Board plans to use the grant funds to provide Board certified teachers with specialized training so they can become literacy coaches in schools with the most need. The National Board will also use the funding to help increase specialized literacy training opportunities for students enrolled in university teaching programs and for teachers who have recently become licensed.

The ultimate goal, the National Board said, is to help Mississippi students achieve improvements in literacy by preparing board certified teachers to become literacy coaches. The support will help the National Board develop a pipeline to board certification for K-3 teachers.

“The National Board is grateful to have the opportunity to work with partners across the state of Mississippi who are committed to ensuring that all children can read at grade level. Board-certified teachers will be supporting efforts led by the Mississippi Department of Education and school districts throughout the state,” said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “Board-certified teachers have the proven skills to not only help children master core concepts, but instill a love of learning and the habits of mind that are so critical for their continued success and for Mississippi’s future.”

“The Kellogg Foundation is committed to improving the quality of both teaching and learning to help children achieve academic success. Supporting initiatives, like those led by the National Board, will equip educators with the training they need to deliver high-quality learning opportunities for all students,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, WKKF president and CEO. “Effective educators can have a significant and lasting impact on students’ educational success, and we hope this partnership with the National Board will help to improve literacy rates among 38,000 Mississippi children.”

In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature overwhelmingly passed Gov. Bryant’s Education Works agenda, which includes the Third Grade Gate. Research proves that children who do not possess adequate literacy skills by the end of third grade are more likely to eventually drop out of school, become incarcerated and need public assistance.

The Third Grade Gate established early literacy screenings for public school students and requires that K-3 students who struggle with reading receive additional help. The law also requires highly qualified literacy coaches to provide instructional support in literacy to classroom teachers.