TENNESSEE, USA — Help is on the way to boost the reading abilities of students in Northeast Tennessee.
A new statewide initiative is providing resources to develop strong phonics-based skills.
To help support literacy development, Tennessee is providing $100 million of COVID-19 relief funding and federal grants to launch the Reading 360 Initiative.
“Children who are proficient readers in third grade are much more likely to have successful outcomes in their post-secondary life, economic health, things like that," says Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. "We also know that we have about 37% of students in our state who are proficient on our state tests in third grade.”
Preliminary data from the Department of Education estimated a 50% decrease in proficiency rates in third-grade reading and a 65% decrease in math.
“We are doing this because we are working with our districts and schools, not separate from them," says Schwinn.
The state is categorized into eight regional implementation networks. Each network will consist of one mentor district. Unicoi County Schools was selected as Northeast Tennessee’s mentor.
“We'll be reaching out traveling to and working with supervisors, and teachers, from those systems to analyze how we're all implementing the new materials, how we're utilizing what kind of impact all of our different strategies are having on students," says John English, the Unicoi County Director of Schools.
English has a message for parents in the region as schools are adjusting to this collaborative environment.
“As schools are adjusting to this collaborative environment, what’s your message to the parents in our region.”
“This kind of work goes on in this region, almost daily people working together," says English. "It's a connected region, and a lot of great work goes on in all the districts and I love that districts are so willing to share and collaborate the way we do.”
Unicoi County Schools will mentor Sullivan, Washington, Union, Sevier, and Cocke County schools.
They will start traveling to the other districts within the next couple of months.