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Two local schools participating in backpack program sponsored by United Way

Staff reports • May 25, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Students at Roosevelt and Ketron Elementary Schools are participating in a

Summer Backpack Program sponsored by the United Way of Greater Kingsport.


program, part of the organization's community reading effort called "United, We

Read," was piloted at these two schools. Current second graders at the schools

were given a backpack containing three literacy-rich books with supporting

parent/caregiver guided reading journals. Additionally, literacy events

developed around these books are being planned for this summer.


to local United Way officials, the pilot's success will be judged by comparing

individual student reading levels at the end of the 2012-2013 school year with

those at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year to determine if reading

levels were maintained or improved.

According to a United Way press

release, in 2009, the Children and Youth Vision Council, the UWGK volunteer

group focused on education issues, developed a community outcome that said

"Youth will graduate from high school college and career ready." In order to

make this outcome a reality, the group assessed the community to determine what

programs and organizations existed to support this outcome and where gaps

remained. They also reviewed state education data related to literacy in

Greater Kingsport.

Their findings indicated that many organizations and

individuals have worked for years and continue their efforts to provide reading

assistance, tutoring, and mentoring to children. The process also confirmed

students are being well prepared by local school systems. However, the recent

nationwide implementation of new, more rigorous curricula is contributing to a

result that is yielding a less than desirable gap in achievement for local

students. This gap materialized in a large number of students missing the

proficient and advanced marks on their third grade Reading/Language Arts TCAPs

in 2012. The TCAP scores are significant, according to the United Way,

because the National Research Council asserts that "academic success," defined

by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing

someone's reading skill at the end of third grade. Also, A Kids Count Special

Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its report, entitled, "Early

Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters," emphasizes that three

quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor

readers in high school. The culmination of the Children and Youth Vision

Council's efforts confirmed the importance of having every child in our

community reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

The UWGK then

formed a Steering Committee to help shape a strategy around early grade

literacy. Committee members were Sullivan County School Superintendent Jubal

Yennie; Kingsport City Schools Superintendent Lyle Alshie; Terry Cunningham,

Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority executive director; Paul

Montgomery, Eastman Chemical Company vice president of Talent Management and

UWGK Executive Director Danelle Glasscock.They worked to create a

community vision: “In 2018, 100 percent of our children will be proficient or

advanced on third grade Reading/Language Arts TCAPs.”

The committee

selected leadership from each school system to form a Strategy Leadership Team.

The leaders are Andy True, administrative coordinator for Kingsport City

Schools; and Jami Corwin, English/Language Arts curriculum coordinator for

Sullivan County Schools. Under their guidance and with support from the UWGK, a

tactical model was developed and is currently being implemented."This

model is a comprehensive and holistic approach to increasing literacy in our

Greater Kingsport community. It supports the already excellent work being done

in our schools by helping focus our efforts on After School/Summer Excellence,

Parent/Caregiver Engagement, Community Support, Company Engagement, and Members

at Large which includes our higher education institutions," Glasscock said.

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