(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
The Parents’ Campaign actively opposed the Literacy Based Promotion Act. Now it wants credit for the results achieved under the law. Credit for historic reading gains belongs to the leaders who had the vision to raise the bar and the students and teachers who answered the call.
The Literacy Based Promotion Act (LBPA) has been widely credited for raising the bar on reading in Mississippi schools, prompting accolades from across the country.
The law was not without detractors when passed in 2013. The “Parents’ Campaign,” an organization that ironically opposes giving parents the right to make their own education decisions, openly advocated for the LBPA’s defeat.
Spearheaded by former Gov. Phil Bryant, the law passed over the group’s protest.
As LBPA neared full implementation in 2015, “Parents’ Campaign” head Nancy Loome told the Clarion Ledger “we are setting these kids up for failure.” Her warning came alongside dire predictions that the LBPA would result in 28 percent of all third-graders being held back.
Loome and other doomsayers were wrong. In the first year of the program, the actual retention rate for third-graders in Mississippi was roughly 8 percent. Instead of seeing marked increases in students held back, Mississippi has achieved historic gains in reading. The results are so good even the New York Times cannot deny them.
Taking Credit Where Credit’s Not Due
On the heels of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy reminded critics “victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.”
It’s unsurprising that the “thousand fathers” are lining up to take credit for Mississippi’s impressive education gains. It is surpising that among them is the Parents’ Campaign.
Nestled in a Parents’ Campaign release yesterday was this little gem:
The release gives a nod to educators, but the implication is clear: this happened on our watch.
The Parents Campaign taking credit for the results of policies they fought tooth and nail is certainly bold. Brazen, even. It would be as if Kennedy, instead of accepting fault for the botched Bay of Pigs operation, had gone to Cuba and announced he helped repel the invading Americans.
Raising the Bar
Setting aside the revisionist history, why were opponents like the “Parents’ Campaign” so horribly wrong in their predictions on the Literacy Based Promotion Act? Because the law was not an unsupported mandate for getting kids to read on basic grade level before fourth grade. It included resources, teacher training, and new literacy coaches to help third graders achieve the goal.
Raising the bar higher and arming the school system with new tools worked. Families, students, and educators rose to the occasion achieving real results.
Every two years, a sample of fourth graders across the country take National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. In 2019, Mississippi’s fourth graders showed the largest gains in reading proficiency in the nation. COVID disrupted the NAEP testing schedule, but in 2022 Mississippi maintained its reading gains, even as national scores suffered significant declines.
Even more promising, a recent study by the Wheelock Education Policy Center at Boston University suggests that those students who are retained under the LBPA maintain reading gains in the years that follow.
Gov. Bryant, Tate Reeves, both in his tenure as Lt. Governor and Governor, Speaker Philip Gunn, and the Mississippi Legislature deserve credit for the vision and tenacity to push reforms to fruition. Teachers and families deserve credit for the hard work of executing within the framework created.
The collaboration, from policymaking to the classroom, yielded real results that deserve to be heralded. Perhaps just not by the people who opposed the changes in the first place.