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Superintendents, Trident United Way announce reading initiative

Source: The Berkeley Independent

By Monica Kreber

August 20, 2017

Tri-county school districts are on a mission to make sure students are reading on grade level by the third grade.

The Reading by Third initiative is a partnership between Trident United Way and four local school districts – Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Districts Two and Four – to provide innovative teacher training conducted by the University of Florida Lastinger Center in an effort to raise rates of reading proficiency among early readers.

The program is taking place in four Charleston County schools and focusing on pre-kindergarten students. In Berkeley and Dorchester counties eight schools will focus on students in kindergarten through second grade.

Approximately 246 educators – 70 from Charleston County and 176 from the other three districts – attended trainings with instructors from the Lastinger Center over the summer and will be employing new instructional models throughout the 2017-2018 school year.

Dorchester District Two Superintendent Joe Pye said it is a great initiative. Officials spent all last year talking about the partnership, he said.

District Four Superintendent Morris Ravenell said he thinks the program will help limit the number of children who have to go to reading intervention by taking preventive measures.

He said District Four does have children not reading at grade level. The program is being implemented at Clay Hill Elementary and Harleyville Elementary.

“I think by addressing what teachers need to do to identify those areas I think will help us bring our students up quicker,” he said.

Ravenell he last week he was looking forward to the first day of school.

“We’re ready to go,” he said.

Trident United Way, which serves as the community connector for conversations among the four school districts, will also provide funding for up to $1.5 million for the next three years to implement this program in the tri-county area.

Shared protocols and evaluation standards will allow the partners to collect and measure the data together and determine the program’s effectiveness.

Superintendents and Trident United Way officials announced the initiative at a press conference Aug. 15.

Pye said all the districts agree literacy is the No. 1 issue that needs to be looked at.

“It needs to start early as possible, and we cannot do it by ourselves,” he said, adding, “Why can’t we share our resources and, most importantly, our knowledge, and work as a community…? Let’s tackle the community problem together – and I’m so proud of my colleagues, they do a great job.”

John Read, CEO of Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative – which is supporting the initiative – gave kudos to all partners.

“The work of alignment and finding common ground, even among the four school districts, is no easy task,” Read said.

“We know that the more educated a person is, the more financially stable and healthy that person is likely to be throughout his or her life,” Trident United Way President & CEO Chris Kerrigan said in a press release. “We also know that reading at grade level by the end of third grade is a leading indicator of high school graduation and later academic success.”

The team from the Lastinger Center will continue to coach and support teachers through a period of 20 additional follow-up sessions throughout the year. Trident United Way will support the evaluative process and attend quarterly meetings with school district leadership. The pilot project is designed to run for a period of three years and is subject to review on an annual basis.