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Opinion: There Is a Right Way to Teach Reading, and Mississippi Knows It

“Thank God for Mississippi.”

That’s a phrase people would use when national education rankings came out because no matter how poorly your state performed, you could be sure things were worse in Mississippi.

Not anymore. New results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test given every two years to measure fourth- and eighth-grade achievement in reading and math, show that Mississippi made more progress than any other state.

The state’s performance in reading was especially notable. Mississippi was the only state in the nation to post significant gains on the fourth-grade reading test. Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.

What’s up in Mississippi? There’s no way to know for sure what causes increases in test scores, but Mississippi has been doing something notable: making sure all of its teachers understand the science of reading.