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
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
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.”
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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.
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.