- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi’s pilot pre-kindergarten program is in its third year, and the 4-year-olds’ test results are testament to why so many tout the power of early childhood education.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/1SKQVVL) each of the 11 collaboratives across the state increased its average score on a test measuring kindergarten readiness over the last school year, and all but three met or exceeded the target score of 498.

“That was our goal, to make sure our children were growing, especially with literacy development,” said Jill Dent, who oversees the collaboratives as the director of the office of early childhood at the state Education Department. “We went through a process of determining what we considered to be . on the national level of a child exiting pre-K that would’ve learned what they needed to learn, basically.”

McComb Community Collaborative for Early Learning Success, Petal Early Learning Collaborative and Picayune School District all fell short of the 498 goal, though each one grew between 50 to 100 points from the fall to the spring.

The partnerships were formed after the state passed its first pre-K law, the Early Learning Collaborative Act, in 2013. Many school districts had previously funded programs for 4-year-olds with federal money.

Many in each collaborative seem to share the same sentiment: that what really works is the collaboration between different sites - school districts, private providers, Head Start centers - and the communication among all teachers about the shared curriculum.

“The teachers meet every week . and take apart the standards and look at strategies for teaching the standards,” Lacia Donald, early learning coordinator for the Quitman School District, said of the Clarke County Early Learning Partnership.

The Clarke County collaborative showed the largest growth on the kindergarten readiness test. The average score for Clarke County’s 110 students increased 130 points from the fall to the spring of the last school year.

In the northern part of the state, the Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance, where scores grew an average of 109 points, is made up of five sites at two elementary schools, two Head Start centers and one private provider. After the first year was spent training teachers and getting ready for students, the alliance is in its second year of teaching 4-year-olds.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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