Words by Tess Becker
The education system in the United States has been struggling of late, particularly after the pandemic, which interrupted formative learning time. But in the Deep South, the problem has been ongoing for many years beforehand.
Take Mississippi for example, they are currently 48th in the US for reading comprehension and literacy with a 72% rate.
It’s a great surprise then that Mississippi had a recent boom in literacy rates.
Mississippi went from being ranked the second-worst state in 2013 for fourth-grade reading, to 21st in 2022. Louisiana and Alabama, meanwhile, were among only three states to see modest gains in fourth-grade reading during the pandemic. Everywhere else saw massive learning setbacks.
The turnaround in these three states has grabbed the attention of educators nationally, showing rapid progress is possible anywhere, even in areas that have struggled for decades with poverty and dismal literacy rates. The states have passed laws adopting similar reforms that emphasize phonics and early screenings for struggling kids.
Other states have taken notice of what’s been dubbed the ‘Mississippi Miracle’ and are working to implement similar policies.
“Every time I present a bill, I say, ‘Look, Mississippi has very similar challenges to what we have in Louisiana, and they’ve been able to make this work,’” said Rep. Richard Nelson, a Republican who has championed literacy reform.
Some of the most impacted groups of kids are those under the poverty line, who were historically marginalized by the system.
“We have to break that cycle of generational poverty. One of the best ways to do that is to make multiple generations of readers,” Alabama’s state superintendent of education, Eric Mackey said. “This is something that we have to be in for the long haul.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
American Civil Liberties Union. This is one of the largest civil liberty defense organizations in the US. Find out more and support them here.
Human Rights Campaign. This is one of the largest equality-focused organizations in the US. Find out more.
The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.