Mississippi Rising: How the Last became First in Literacy Growth

Presented by Leta Palmiter

In this session, we will discuss the positive trends in student achievement in Mississippi. In 1998, as the nation grappled with how to improve education and President George W. Bush was crafting what would become No Child Left Behind, Mississippi ranked last on The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Statistically, only the District of Columbia scored lower. Fast forward to 2019, and Mississippi is the only state to make positive gains in all areas on the NAEP. We are number 29 out of 52 in 4th-grade reading, and only 11 states performed significantly higher statistically. How do you get that amount of movement in a place like Mississippi? The answers are as interesting as the rest of the story in Mississippi. In her new book, Leta has woven together the story of dyslexia therapy programs, legislation leading to structured literacy professional development, and private investment advocating for the science of reading in every school. These three threads weave together our story of growth with lessons for us all.

Literacy changes lives. Our future workforce depends on reading skills, and we need people who can efficiently navigate a knowledge-based economy and who can competently communicate in a digital world. Teachers are the only ones who can make that happen; they are the agents of progress and the future of our country.

Conference registration required.


Session Objectives

  • Highlight successful implementation strategies for structured literacy
  • Reinforce the importance of structured literacy for all students
  • Bridge the gap between science of reading and classroom instruction
  • Outline future steps for continued growth

More about the speaker


Leta Palmiter, Ed.S., CALT, C-SLDS. Leta has 22 years of experience teaching in all grades, abilities, and settings. She is the founder and director of Illuminations Center for Dyslexia in Meridian, Mississippi. Their mission is to impact the lives of children, adolescents, and adults with explicit, structured literacy instruction.

Leta is currently working on a book about Mississippi’s rise from last to tied for 11th on the NAEP over the last 20 years. Mississippi Rising: How the Last Became First in Literacy Growth is the story of all who made this change possible.