Kindergarteners in the 2016-2017 school year made greater gains on the STAR Early Literacy exam than kindergarteners in the prior year, the Mississippi Department of Education announced.

Close to 37,000 kindergarteners took the test in both the fall and spring. The state average score for the fall test was 502 compared to 710 on the spring test. In 2015-2016, the score for the fall test was 502 compared to 703 in the spring.

“Mississippi kindergarten teachers are continuing to do a great job helping students build the foundational literacy skills they need to be successful throughout their education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Reading instruction must remain a major focus through the third grade so that all children complete elementary school with strong reading skills.”

Every district showed progress from the fall to the spring, though overall scores varied, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

The exam evaluates the ability to recognize letters and match letters to their sounds, along with recognition that print flows from left to the right. Parents and teachers then receive reports on students’ skills.

For more details on the results of the kindergarten readiness test and the pre-kindergarten assessment, click here.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.