‘Mississippi Miracle:’ How Teaching Phonics Again Caused a Huge Spike in Literacy Rates

SpeedKingz / shutterstock.com
SpeedKingz / shutterstock.com

It’s safe to say that liberalism has been a disaster for American education. Setting aside teaching “the basics” and instead allowing teachers to talk about their weird love lives to small children isn’t doing the country any favors. Some states are slowly coming to this realization as they discard 20th-century teaching fads that have failed kids. For example, poor states in the Deep South are suddenly posting some of the best literacy rates in the country.

Mississippi has long been at the very bottom of the 50 states when it comes to literacy. The excuse from the education establishment was that the kids there are poor. If we just threw more money at the schools, test scores and literacy would go up. How many decades have we been hearing that now?

In 2013, Mississippi ranked 49th in literacy in America. But suddenly, in 2022, Mississippi ranked 21st in the country when it comes to literacy. How’d they do that?

Mississippi passed a law that schools there have to go back to a phonics-based system of teaching kids how to read. The “whole language” approach adopted as a mid-20th century fad clearly didn’t work. Many high schools in Chicago now have graduating classes where not a single student can read at a 5th-grade level.

In Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, their literacy rates are growing steadily because they’ve gone back to teaching reading through phonics. Kelly Butler, the CEO of the Barksdale Institute in Mississippi, says, “We know how to teach reading. We just have to do it everywhere.” The Barksdale Institute works to instate phonics and change literacy policy in failing schools.

It’s clear from decades of real-world evidence that phonics works, while whole-language and other fads are dismal failures. It’s time to get politics out of education and just get back to the basics. The “Mississippi Miracle” proves that.