Senator Bo Watson Presents Inaugural Literacy Summit

Thursday, September 9, 2021
Panelists, from left, included TQEE President & CEO Blair Taylor; Commissioner Penny Schwinn; Senator Bo Watson; HCS Interim Superintendent Dr. Nakia Towns; and SCORE President & CEO David Mansouri
Panelists, from left, included TQEE President & CEO Blair Taylor; Commissioner Penny Schwinn; Senator Bo Watson; HCS Interim Superintendent Dr. Nakia Towns; and SCORE President & CEO David Mansouri

District 11 Senator Bo Watson presented the inaugural Literacy Summit on Thursday as part of his ongoing efforts to elevate the importance of literacy in early childhood. Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn as well as state and local organizations convened at the Literacy Summit to explore opportunities that officials said will elevate literacy outcomes at both the local and state levels.

It was held Thursday at Collegedale Commons, 4950 Swinyar Dr.

Those attending included Commissioner Schwinn, State Collaborative on Reforming Education President and CEO David Mansouri, Tennesseans for Quality Early Education President and  CEO Blair Taylor, Hamilton County Interim Superintendent Dr. Nakia Towns, and organizations administering reading and literacy programs.

“Students who are not reading on grade level by third grade are unlikely to ever catch up, making it clear that prioritizing literacy in early childhood is critical and has a tremendous impact on the future success of our next generation,” said Senator Watson. “My goal is for those doing the work of administering reading and literacy programs is to get aligned, share what we’re doing, and tackle the issue collectively for the betterment of our children and beyond.”

The summit comes weeks after Tennessee standardized test scores revealed a marked decline in each grade level. In Hamilton County, literacy scores for second graders dropped 11 percentage points compared to 2019. In addition to featured panelists, several stakeholders actively engaged in promoting literacy participated in the event aimed at elevating literacy outcomes in early childhood. Attendees included state, county and city elected officials, civic organizations and higher learning institutions as well as members of the community.

“Tennessee teachers, leaders and policymakers have been focused on improving early literacy and that dedicated focus has spread throughout our state, as districts, educators, legislators, families and students have embraced Reading 360," said Commissioner Schwinn. "Every single child across the state deserves an opportunity to develop strong reading skills, a love of learning, and is progressing and accelerating just as fast as possible.”

“Now that Tennessee has a strong set of policies to improve early literacy, the next step is implementing those policies well,” said Mr. Mansouri. “SCORE applauds Senator Watson for bringing together the leaders who can ensure the entire community is aligned in supporting young students in learning to read well.”

“We know that when students aren’t reading at grade level by third grade they typically fall further and further behind," said Ms. Taylor. "With 68 percent of Tennessee’s third graders now below proficient, the situation is urgent for all student groups, but especially for economically disadvantaged students and children of color. We can fix this, but we know skills and performance gaps take root long before third grade and are tied to opportunity gaps. That’s why TQEE is dedicated to advancing smart policies and practices that support children’s success from ages 0 to third grade, with special attention to those economically or otherwise disadvantaged.”

Summit participants also reviewed and discussed the Hamilton County Schools Foundational Literacy Skills Plan and the Tennessee Department of Education’s Foundational Literacy Skills Plan Toolkit. For more information and to view those online, visit:

HCS Plan: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1asueL8DQkY6F9NFBlWYqr_J9zARxqqOPg6kCoBfEzy4/edit

TN DOE Plan: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/2020-21-leg-session/FLSP%20Guidance%20and%20Toolkit%20April%202021.pdf


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