Call Mississippi a copycat: Alabama’s western neighbor sees value in our reading initiative
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 04, 2013 | 2739 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In our two-state race to the bottom, Alabama and Mississippi have seldom (maybe never) looked to one another for examples of how to do things better — or admitted it if they did.

Thus, it should be noted with pride that Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is proposing that his state begin making an effort equal to what is being done in Florida and, get ready, Alabama, to improve the reading skills of elementary school students.

Mississippi is not following our lead in everything. Lawmakers in the Magnolia State seem enamored with Florida’s draconian rules that have third-grade students held back if they do not read at a Florida-determined level. To their credit, Alabama officials apparently accept the evidence that shows such a strategy usually proves counterproductive at that grade level and often leads to more dropouts later on, so our state does not include automatic hold-backs in it plans.

More important, Mississippi educators and legislators are pointing to the success of the Alabama Reading Initiative, which relies on reading coaches in the schools.

This page often criticizes legislators for not funding education as it should be funded, but again we can point to Mississippi and note that it could be worse.

In an effort to get a reading coach in every public elementary school, Alabama spent nearly $60 million in 2012. Although Mississippi has fewer students and fewer public schools, to match what Alabama has done would take $40 million. Gov. Bryant is seeking $15 million, but lawmakers are balking at that figure.

So even though Alabama’s widely praised Reading Initiative could be and should be better-funded, we are doing better than Mississippi.

More than that, Mississippi acknowledges our success.

We’re curious what our neighbor to the west will do to close the gap. The governor and legislators are looking to divert federal teacher-training money to a reading-coach program.

Sounds familiar. It seems Mississippi also wants to match Alabama in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
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