TDOE Announces Reading 360 Model Districts

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Tennessee Department of Education on Thursday announced five districts have been recognized as Reading 360 Model Districts for their promising early literacy work- Bristol Tennessee City Schools, Jackson County Schools, Lebanon Special School District, Milan Special School District, and Williamson County Schools- and have been selected as Tennessee Model Foundational Skills Implementation District grant awardees for implementing the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement over the 2020-21 school year.

In July 2020, the department released the free, optional supplement to support early literacy, which follows evidenced-based research to build a solid foundation for literacy in pre-K through second grade.

"Early literacy is the foundation for a student’s educational journey," said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. "We are incredibly proud of these five Reading 360 Model Districts for their exceptional work to utilize this free supplement to help their students build strong reading skills and develop literacy proficiency as early as possible. This supplement builds upon the critical work already happening across the state around literacy and the Reading 360 initiative and we are thankful for our district and school leaders and education stakeholders for embracing this moment to push our students forward and improve literacy rates.”

Districts applied to be Reading 360 Model Implementation Districts for the TN Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement in the spring of 2021, and the five districts selected demonstrated a strong and clear focus on foundational literacy skills. Additionally, each district created a plan to support teachers with the implementation of the curriculum supplement, including lesson preparation and coaching feedback, professional learning meetings, professional development, teacher collaboration, as well as how to capture teacher videos.

Each of the five districts will receive a grant award of $300,000 to support their ongoing implementation of foundational literacy skills as well as help the department collect model instructional videos for the implementation tools and resources that any district may use to support their own implementation of foundational literacy skills. Over time, the resources gathered through this grant will be shared on Best for All Central to ensure all districts have strong tools to support foundational literacy skills instruction. Additionally, these video lessons will air on PBS through the state’s ongoing partnership with Tennessee's six PBS stations, PBS Teaching Tennessee.

These districts will serve as case study models sharing resources such as videos of classroom instruction and coaching sessions, documents such as lesson preparation protocols, scope and sequences, and other tools used to support implementation of strong foundational skills instruction.

Each district’s director of Schools has a clear focus on early grades instruction and a vision to ensure their students are reading successfully by the third grade. Area legislators commented on the selected districts focus and dedication to high-quality early literacy instruction.

Bristol Tennessee City Schools  
“Early literacy is critical to ensuring our students have the necessary tools to prepare for post-secondary success,” said Dr. Annette Tudor, director of Schools, Bristol Tennessee City Schools. “We are excited for the opportunity to share our implementation journey of the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement.  Our teachers have embraced our new high quality instructional materials and already see how they are making a difference in student success.  We hope to help other districts who are beginning to implement TNFSCS as well.” 

“Literacy is the critical foundation for all other education a child receives. Bristol is very fortunate to have excellent teachers who are deeply committed to ensuring every student gets the skills they need to reach their full potential,” said State Rep. John Crawford. “I thank our dedicated teaching professionals for their commitment to shaping the next generation of Tennesseans.”

Jackson County Schools 
“We are thrilled to be named as a Model District for TN Foundational Skills Implementation,” said Kristy Brown, director of Schools, Jackson County Schools. “There has never been the level of intentional planning nor a greater investment in early literacy in Jackson County Schools.  The foundational skills curriculum and professional development have provided our teachers with the tools they need to ensure all students are learning to read at high levels. It’s great to see the improved outcomes for students and the recognition of best practices in our schools.”

“I’m very excited about the Jackson County School District receiving this grant award,” said State Rep. John Mark Windle. “The teachers, students, administrators and staff in Jackson County have worked hard to keep their district moving forward during the trying times of the past year with a particular emphasis on literacy and general education.  I’m proud of them all and thankful to the Department of Education for this generous grant.”   

“I am very proud of the hard work from our students, teachers and school administrators in Jackson County for their tremendous success supporting students’ foundational literacy skills,” said State Senator Paul Bailey. “The skills gained from this instruction will help to set these students up for a future of educational achievements. I am pleased school districts across the state will be able to learn from the success of Jackson County Schools.”

Lebanon Special School District 
“Lebanon Special School District is super excited to engage with the TDOE and The Early Literacy Network to provide additional supports for our teachers and students in the implantation of the foundational skills of literacy in our district,” said Scott Benson, director of Schools, Lebanon Special School District. “Being named a Model District is a true testament to the hard work of our teachers and instructional staff. We can’t wait to see the impact this partnership will have on our students!”

"Reading is critical to student success and these funds will help our schools implement vital curriculum to promote academic achievement,” said State Senator Mark Pody. “Congratulations to our school officials for successfully securing this grant. I look forward to seeing much progress from our students as a result of this innovative literacy program.”

Milan Special School District 
“Milan Special School District is excited to be named a Tennessee Model Foundational Skills Implementation District,” said Jonathan Criswell, director of Schools, Milan Special School District. “We are honored that our work over the past few years in foundational reading skills has been recognized by the state. With the implementation of the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum, we are confident that our youngest learners will receive a more in-depth grasp of the foundational literacy skills needed to ensure all of our students have the ability to be on-grade-level readers. We want the work that we have done and are currently doing shared with our peers across the state so Tennessee can continue to be the fastest-improving state in the nation. We believe that together we can succeed in this important work.”

“Establishing strong foundational reading skills early on in a child’s education journey is critical to their future success,” said State Senator John Stevens. “I am very pleased that Milan Special School District has implemented the curriculum to teach these skills well. This grant is well-deserved, and I am glad other school districts will be able to learn from this success.”

Williamson County Schools 
“We're really excited about the focused, systematic implementation of foundational skills with our youngest readers across our district,” said Dr. David Allen, assistant superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, Williamson County Schools. “Our elementary staff has worked tirelessly through trainings and collaboration to ensure a positive learning experience for students across all Williamson County Schools.  We're excited to share and learn alongside other Tennessee districts and appreciate the support provided by TDOE for phonics instruction through opportunities like the Foundational Skills Model District Grant.” 

"I am proud to learn Williamson County Schools has been named one of five Reading 360 model districts,” said State Rep. Sam Whitson. “It's so important that our youngest students develop strong, phonics-based reading skills, and I'm excited that WCS teachers and staff will be sharing and learning alongside other Tennessee districts to support literacy development." 

"I am very proud of our schools for securing this grant,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “This additional funding will not only help implement a successful program that ensures that every child gains critical reading skills, but will help serve a model for other schools to follow.  Congratulations to all our school officials for a successful grant application."

These grants are funded through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

The supplement builds off the work of Reading 360, a comprehensive statewide literacy initiative to provide optional grants and resources to help more Tennessee students develop strong phonics-based reading skills by supporting districts, teachers, and families. Components of the Reading 360 initiative are funded with federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding. To access additional resources on Reading 360, click here.

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