A little school in Tunica County has something to shout about, thanks in part to a University of Mississippi program dedicated to helping literacy instructors excel.
Dundee Elementary, a 179-student elementary school serving pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, received a Star rating in 2011, earning the Mississippi Department of Education’s highest performance classification, and received “high performing” status in 2012.
Improving literacy instruction is a central concern of the university’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. Founded in 2007 with support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation, CELI’s initial undertaking was to launch a specialized master’s degree program in literacy education for the School of Education. CELI Director Angela Rutherford has also coordinated undergraduate literacy courses and developed a range of activities and programs, from piloting a summer camp for fourth- to sixth-graders to creating the CELI Read Aloud Book Award. CELI officials remain most proud of the work accomplished through the center’s fruitful collaboration with Dundee.
“In 2011, Dundee was the only school in the Mississippi Delta classified as a Star School by the Mississippi Department of Education,” Rutherford said. “They were also awarded a national Title I ‘Closing the Achievement Gap’ award.”
CELI has also worked with Okolona, Robinsonville and Charleston elementary schools. Working directly with individual teachers at those schools, Rutherford and her colleagues provided professional development opportunities by exposing literacy teachers to new pedagogical skills and instructional techniques, such as how to better manage small group instruction.
Dr. Angela Rutherford brings expertise in literacy instruction to her role as the director of the School of Education's Willie Price Lab School.
Dundee Elementary earned the Mississippi Department of Education’s highest performance classification in 2012.
Early Literacy Instruction students are photographed with some of their favorite children's titles.
Dundee Elementary School students participate in an activity to enhance literacy.
Students hear a story at Willie Price Lab School.
Improving literacy instruction is a central concern of the university’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.
Storytelling at Willie Price encourages early childhood literacy.
Rutherford recently assumed a new leadership role as director of Willie Price Lab School, the preschool operated by the UM School of Education. There, she is incorporating her experience as an expert in literacy instruction and adopting an assessment system to pinpoint instructional needs.
In 2012, CELI received five years of additional support from the Hearin Foundation, allowing the center to continue to work in Mississippi schools.
“If we could take Dundee’s story and replicate it across the state, there would be a difference in literacy across the state,” Rutherford said. “That’s where I see us going—trying to do more with teachers already there.”