How home visits help boost early literacy in Mississippi
Having third grade readers reach proficiency is so vital to Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich that he visits hundreds of homes to find out what literacy support families in his Mississippi district need.
Since 2016 and primarily in the summer, Rodolfich has visited more than 1,800 homes in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District.
He focuses on third graders because that is year students must pass a test known as the Third Grade Reading Gate to move on to fourth grade, Rodolfich says.
“I never say to parents, ‘I need you to work with your children more,'” says Rodolfich, who has led the district for 16 years. “I always ask, ‘What can we as a school district do to help your child with reading.'”
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Rodolfich, who is often accompanied by a district English language specialist or the head of the district’s law enforcement department, also hands out a literacy packet and a chapter book to each family.
He estimates he makes contact with about 80% of the nearly 500 families he visits each summer.
During the school year, he makes another round of visits to the homes of students whom building principals have identified as struggling readers.
“The last parent I talked to, she said she just appreciated the schools coming to their home,” he says. “I’ve always had positive contacts when I’ve gone to people’s homes. They’re very thankful that we’re here to help and o serve.”
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COVID has not stopped the visits. Rodolfich and his colleagues have been masked and travelled with car windows open. They also social distance with families at their homes and use sanitize their hands frequently, he says.
Ed tech assist
Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich and his team use a platform called SchoolStatus to document home visits and use the data to plan interventions for struggling students in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District.
Pascagoula-Gautier, which has the second largest English language learner population in Mississippi and 100% free-and-reduced-lunch rate, has seen steady reading growth in recent years.
Three of the district’s elementary schools ranked in the top 14 out of 600 for overall performance among schools in Mississippi. Five ranked in the top 65, Rodolfich says.
Educators there have also had to hold back very few third graders from progressing to fourth.
“I’m a very small part of what occurs in our classroom—my teachers and principals are the champions of our children,” Rodolfich says. “I just wanted to get in the game—I wanted to bea part of the time. Home visits are a way I can make a contribution from the central office.”