Teacher Mary Greene has a room full of eager students on her hands — and a big job to do. She teaches 4- and 5-year-olds in the Pre-K classroom at Baxterville School.
“When they begin Pre-K, some know only some letters. Some know only some numbers,” she said. “Some know their entire alphabet and all their numbers. Some don’t know any letters or numbers.”
Greene sets her tiny charges up at stations. Two work at a coveted light box, looking at colored panes. Others write and draw with brightly hued markers, while still more play with simple puzzles.
“My goals are to introduce and engage them in text, phonemic awareness, letters, letter sounds — to prepare them to read,” she said.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Education say the fall 2016 results from the state’s kindergarten readiness test show students who attended public or private Pre-K programs were more likely to start kindergarten prepared to learn than students who did not. Pine Belt education officials echo that, saying Pre-K attendance can affect not only kindergarten readiness, but reading ability in the lower grades as well.
At Baxterville School, there is one Pre-K class of 20 students and two kindergarten classes of about 14 students each.
Baxterville Principal Jarrod Bohannon said attendance at Pre-K has been helpful to the kindergarten students.
“You can see it’s impactful in their preparedness,” he said. “Being in a rural community, we don’t have a lot of Pre-K opportunities. You can look at our literacy data over the last few years and see that (Pre-K) has had an impact.”
Baxterville School’s kindergartners scored 551 on the fall kindergarten readiness assessment — the highest score in Lamar County School District. There are 800 kindergartners in the district —about 58 percent attend some type of Pre-K, said Teresa Jenny, district director of academics.