Cash-strapped schools face 3rd-grade crisis

Many of Yazoo City’s roughly 100 third graders who failed the test did so by narrow margins. With intense remediation through the district’s two summer reading institutes, Lovette hopes at least half will pass the test on the second or third try and advance to the fourth grade.

Even then, they’ll likely need additional help. The law requires districts to provide specialized instruction to students who repeat the third grade and to those who just barely made it to fourth.

All of it comes at a cost. To deliver remedial instruction, districts must use highly-qualified literacy teachers or interventionists, whose salaries average about $60,000 per year, according to figures from the Mississippi Department of Education. The law caps at 40 the number of students each interventionist can handle, meaning districts will need 140 of them next year if the current numbers hold.

That’s $8.4 million statewide.