For Release: May 18, 2010
Contact: Linda O’Neal email@example.com
Pam K. Brown Pam.K.Brown@tn.gov
Phone (615) 741-2633
Nashville ––Tennessee early education and reading experts say
the state’s economy and quality of life can be improved when our children
learn reading on time.
The experts were speaking at an event to present the findings of a report
by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Program, “Early
Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.”
Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children
and Youth (TCCY), said, “The future prosperity of Tennessee and the
nation depends on the development of a workforce with skills for the 21st
Century. Over the course of their lifetimes, children who struggle with reading
face a multitude of challenges that perpetuate disadvantage from generation
to generation, especially among low-income children.
“The report indicates unfortunately only a little more than one in
four Tennessee fourth graders (28 percent) scored proficient in reading,
according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, giving the
state a ranking of 37th.”
Educators in Tennessee do have plans for improving reading education.
Dr. David Dickinson, professor of education and interim chair of the Department
of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College
of Education, said, “Achieving grade-level reading…is a goal
that only will be reached through early, concerted, coordinated and sustained
actions that begin at birth and continue through grade three.
“Educating children…is a challenge for our state, our communities
and our families as well as for our schools.”
Dickinson acknowledged communities, neighborhood agencies, schools and families
are being stressed by a host of complex challenges. He said, “No single
link in this interconnected web of supports for children can accomplish this
task alone, but we can accomplish it if we create sustained, coordinated
and focused efforts designed to build the reading competencies of all children.”
Dickinson reported on a successful Nashville early education collaboration
of educators and community groups, a collective effort with Vanderbilt University
and 13 Metro Nashville Public Schools, which involves parents. The Metro
Nashville Public Library provides workshops and enrichment, and the YMCA
is hosting a coordinated, focused and sustained effort we need to see across
James Herman, executive director of reading for the Tennessee Department
of Education, said the department has always made reading a priority in our
schools, but acknowledged a lack of resources.
He said the Race to the Top grant, which Tennessee is only one of two states
to receive to date, will ensure schools have effective teachers and leaders.
He said, “The Race to the Top will help ensure standards for reading
will be implemented by all teachers. Content teachers will receive instruction
in content literacy…. All teachers will be evaluated on classroom
performance of teaching reading.”
Herman said collaboration between the state Department of Education and
nonprofit community organizations, businesses and professional reading groups
will help to strengthen the reading process.
“Students struggling in reading in all schools will receive intervention
so they can reach their full potential in reading,” said Herman.
Nashville Vice-Mayor Diane Neighbors, the chair of the Tennessee Association
for Early Education and the director of the Vanderbilt Child Care Center,
discussed the importance of these efforts, saying, “It is critical
that we provide for the total development of each child so they will be ready
to learn when they start school. Children need health care, appropriate nutrition,
safe neighborhoods and quality early childhood education
“We need to connect the dots and coordinate across programs to support
parents, teachers, and children,” Neighbors said. “We must demand
quality programs that will ensure that children can read at grade level by
the end of third grade. Otherwise, they have little chance of succeeding
and they are more likely to drop out of school.”
Mary Graham, the president of the United Ways of Tennessee, spoke from a
personal perspective of the joy and utility her third grade son finds in
reading. She talked about the Tennessee United Ways’ work to improve
reading education. All across Tennessee they support early childhood education
programs and Pre-K classrooms and provide essential supports for healthy,
In addition to Tennessee’s event, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s
KIDS COUNT Project released the report at a nationally streamed webinar from
the National Press Club. The archived event can be viewed at:
Tennessee Commissioner of Education Tim Webb participated in the national
release event. He said: “If one thing comes out of the $500 million
Tennessee won from the Race to the Top, it's leaving a legacy of changing
expectations so our citizens expect more….The expectation of the population
of educators - expecting the most of every child - that's the expectation
we have to change.
“If the race to the top, as Secretary Duncan has said, is our moon
shoot, and I really believe it is, if we get what we are talking about today
right, that's the rocket that is going to take us there,” Webb added.
The report is available on the KIDS COUNT Project’s online Data Center
(http://datacenter.kidscount.org/readingmatters.aspx). It can be downloaded,
and users can create maps, graphs, and charts of education data at national
and local levels.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency
created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate
for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.
Partial funding for TCCY's KIDS COUNT program is provided through a grant
from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted
exclusively to disadvantaged children.
For more information, contact (615) 741-2633.
Follow the Annie E. Casey Foundation and this issue on Twitter @annieECaseyfndn
and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnnieECaseyFoundation.