$100 Million education initiative, ‘Reading 360,’ to Support Literacy in Tennessee

Federal funding will provide optional reading resources and supports for districts, teachers, families

NASHVILLE—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released details on a new $100 million statewide initiaitive, “Reading 360,” 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 Tennessee 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 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 Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Our state has a golden opportunity to lead the nation in literacy, and most importantly, accelerate progress for our students.”  

Reading is the foundation to all learning and reading proficiently by third grade is a critical milestone for every student. Before the pandemic, only one third of third graders in Tennessee had met expectations in English Language Arts (ELA), the best standardized proxy for reading achievement. Our state has not yet comprehensively and effectively addressed this challenge, and after a year disrupted by COVID-19, school building closures and virtual learning, the stakes are higher than ever for our students.  

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.  

Tennessee has led the nation in academic gains for students over the past decade, and most recently in the K-12 crisis response to COVID-19. Tennessee is now poised not just to protect students, teachers and schools in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, but to accelerate student learning further and faster than ever before. 

Throughout Tennessee and across the country, directors of school, elected officials and community partners are encouraged by this bold approach to support literacy in Tennessee.

“I believe Reading 360 is the bold solution we need to increase reading proficiency for Tennessee students,” said Lillian Hartgrove, chairman, State Board of Education. “We have been challenged to improve reading scores over the past seven years and now we need to invest our resources in this comprehensive program to change the trajectory for every child. The program design includes all the right stakeholders at the appropriate level to ensure students are on the path to life-long learning. This is an exciting moment for Tennessee education.”

To access additional resources on Reading 360, click here.  

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