New literacy initiative launches in Tennessee

Posted at 11:36 AM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 12:36:59-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WTVF)  — The Tennessee Department of Education hopes a new literacy initiative will help teachers and school districts reach struggling readers.

Education officials plan to spend $100 million on “Reading 360,” which was launched Monday across the state. Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered classrooms, only about 36% of Tennessee’s third graders could read on grade level.

Educators anticipate struggling students will have fallen further behind. Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn says the new phonics-based reading program takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the state's literacy crisis.

“In the last decade, Tennessee has done remarkable work to increase expectations for student learning and to improve outcomes for our kids. Now, we are uniquely positioned to tackle literacy with urgency and can do so from all sides,” said Schwinn. “Our state has a golden opportunity to lead the nation in literacy, and most importantly, accelerate progress for our students.”

According to a release from TDOE, through optional grants to districts, students and families will have access to tutoring and online support to help develop literacy skills. Additionally, educators will have access to "free training and professional development, phonics kits and materials to use in their classrooms," along with stipends for training.

Officials said districts will also have access to a "suite of tools and resources to support their teachers and schools in implementing strong reading instruction for all students."

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