On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Education released details on a new $100 million statewide initiative, “Reading 360,” to attempt to ensure Tennessee districts, teachers and families are equipped with tools and resources to help students read on grade level by third grade.

To help support literacy development in Tennessee, the state will leverage approximately $60 million of one-time federal COVID-19 relief funding and $40 million in federal grant funding to immediately launch Reading 360 and invest in optional reading resources and supports at no cost to the state or districts.

Reading 360 will provide optional grants and resources to help more students develop strong phonics-based reading skills by supporting districts, teachers and families.

“When our students succeed our entire state prospers and we know that reading on grade level is foundational to the success of every student, both in and out of the classroom,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “Reading 360 will give critical supports to districts and educators so we can address this challenge urgently and put Tennessee’s students on the right track to grow and thrive.”

“In the last decade, Tennessee has done remarkable work to increase expectations for student learning and to improve outcomes for our kids. Now, we are uniquely positioned to tackle literacy with urgency and can do so from all sides,” said Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Our state has a golden opportunity to lead the nation in literacy, and most importantly, accelerate progress for our students.”

Before the pandemic, only one third of third graders in Tennessee had met expectations in English Language Arts (ELA), according to officials.

Through optional grants to districts, students and families will have access to tutoring and online supports to help develop foundational skills in literacy. Tennessee educators will have access to free training and professional development, phonics kits and materials to use in their classrooms, and stipends for training.

Districts will have access to a suite of tools and resources to support their teachers and schools in implementing strong reading instruction for all students.

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