Overcoming the education challenge of poverty in the Mississippi Delta

Rutherford, A. S., Hillmer, T., & Parker, A. (2011). Overcoming the education challenge of poverty in the Mississippi Delta. Kappan, 93(3), 40-43.

Article Introduction

In Tunica County, sitting in the heart of the Mississippi Delta with its abject poverty, overall academic achievement has been dismal for years despite an influx of millions of dollars of state and federal assistance. But one school in Tunica County has succeeded in making strides in student achievement by focusing on improving the quality of literacy instruction.

At Dundee Elementary, strong leadership and teaching have changed the culture of this school where nearly all students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In Mississippi’s statewide language arts exams in 2009-10, 88% of Dundee’s 4th graders scored proficient, up from 16.2% proficient in 2007-08. In 2009-10, no Dundee students were in the minimal category. The school ranked 23rd out of 401 elementary schools in Missis¬sippi for the 2009-10 school year, according to, up from its ranking of 160 the previous year. Dundee was recently named a “Star School” by Mississippi, sharing that designation with 64 other top-performing schools; and was named a distinguished school by the National Title One Association.

Dundee’s school leaders believed that an effective teacher in every classroom was required in order to improve student learning. Because most Dundee students begin school with limited language and literacy skills, the school decided to place literacy instruction at the forefront of professional learning and, in 2008, created a partnership with the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI) at the University of Mississippi to develop teacher capacity in this area. It is the only such initiative at the school.

Phillips North America/Day Brite Literacy and Lighting Research

The Relationship Between Dynamic Lighting Treatments and Literacy Performance

Mott, Michael S., P.I., & Rutherford, Angela,.S.

This study examines the relationships of dynamic lighting type with literacy instruction of grade 3 students and examines effects for lighting type on motivation and concentration. Structural Equation Modelling with a quasi-experimental component will be utilized to discern degrees of relationships between literacy and lighting. ANOVA will be utilized to discern whether or not there are significant differences between control group lighting and dynamic group lighting by motivation and concentration test scores.

Large-Scale Technical Research in Collaboration with the Holly Springs, Mississippi, School District

Phonological Sensitivity

Mott, M.S., & Rutherford, A.S.

Technical Examination of a Measure of the Developmental Nature of Phonological Sensitivity:
The Leveled Assessment of Phonological Sensitivity


This study describes the development and evaluation of an assessment of phonological sensitivity (PS) designed to empower teachers to identify children’s phonological and phonemic awareness levels for meaningful instruction and to aid literacy researchers in advancing current understandings of the developmental continuum of PS skills. The Leveled Assessment of Phonological Sensitivity (LAPS) is based on correlational, causal and reciprocal relationships to literacy skills including reading. The screening inventory includes 11 levels divided in two parts: phonological awareness and phonemic awareness for determining a child’s level of PS skill. Technical examination of the LAPS’s reliability and validity are presented including developmental trends of students (N=377) in grades Pre-K, K, 1, and 2. Relations and perceived value for teaching and learning between the LAPS and other relevant phonemic awareness tests are evaluated via teacher-focus group interviews.


Applying Messick’s (1996) unitary framework for a hierarchy of validity, the current study will examine reliability; validity types and exploratory tests for discerning assessment overall trends.


  • Parallel forms with Pearson Product-Moment correlations
  • Interscorer with Pearson


  • Convergent and divergent validity via SEM Modelling
  • Construct via Multidimensional scaling (MDS)


Assessment value for classroom applications via teacher (n=50) focus group interviews.