Barksdale Reading Institute CEO visits Natchez schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Claiborne Barksdale, CEO of the Barksdale Reading Institute, visited Natchez Wednesday to assess the progress of a $100 million statewide effort to boost reading skills. Two Natchez schools, Morgantown Elementary and Frazier Primary, were selected by the Barksdale Institute this year to receive $209,930.86. The program benefits prekindergarten to third-graders.

&uot;We’re trying to visit all 40 of the Barksdale schools,&uot; Barksdale said. &uot;The primary objective is to observe implementation and get feedback from the principals.&uot;

Only three other schools in the 4th Congressional district and 20 in the state received Barksdale funding this year.

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The funding is available through a $100 million donation from Netscape Chief James Barksdale and his wife, Sally.

We’re really a facilitator and resource to the teachers,&uot; said Jill Logan, regional reading coordinator for the 4th congressional district who visits the Natchez schools weekly.

The program is designed to boast reading skills by assessing each child’s weaknesses. It also involves parents and after-school tutoring.

Teachers have undergone training and many students received one-on-on-one testing to determine their specific weaknesses, Logan said.

These may include leaving out words, adding words or reversing words, said Frazier Principal Demeteria Reed.

Teachers then use this information to help their students.

&uot;Our teachers are working nonstop. They are really putting forth the effort to get the job done,&uot; Reed said. &uot;But it’s not going to happen overnight.&uot;

Morgantown Principal Carla Evers, said the students are enjoying the Barksdale after-school program, which has a hands-on focus.

Evers said her teachers are focusing on improving reading fluency and comprehension and &uot;trying to get the students to understand what they read.&uot;

Claiborne Barksdale said the program is progressing well across the state although not as quickly as Barksdale officials had hoped.

&uot;I think it’s amazing. the consistent response is it’s going well but it’s going slowly,&uot; Barksdale said. &uot;It’s just taking longer than we expected. It’ll go much more quickly next year.&uot;

For example, teachers had to undergo staff development this year, that will not need to be repeated next year, he said.

Schools with at least 40 percent of their students scoring in th bottom 25 percent in 1998 were eligible to apply for the four-year program.

Sixty-three out of 136 eligible schools in Mississippi submitted applications.