BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) awarded Union County School System (UCS) $3.2 million over five years to advance literacy efforts.
As a recipient of the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant, UCS will focus on creating plans for children from birth to 12th grade. Additionally, the school will partner with the community to effectively reach all local children.
UCS was at the top of the list to receive the grant, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paula Davenport.
GaDOE considers “the poverty level of a community, the percentage of students reading below grade level, the recent rate of growth in the number of students reading above grade level, and whether a school is identified for support from the Department of Education’s School Improvement team.”
From a GaDOE release on the program:
“Introduced in 2016, L4GA is a unique approach to improving literacy that pairs community-driven action with research-proven instruction. In its first round, funded by a federal Striving Readers grant of $61.5 million, 38 school districts partnered with early learning and care providers as well as community organizations to implement community efforts and improve classroom instruction. By working together, schools, early learning providers and caretakers, and community leaders are moving the needle on literacy – in 2019, third-grade students showed significant gains in English Language Arts and grade-level reading.”
UCS has developed a slogan for the program “literacy is for everyone” or “LIFE” for short. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Davenport explained the school will develop tailored programs to meet each child’s interest from digital books to picture books and graphic novels.
“Whatever it takes to get a child to read,” she added.
Davenport also spoke about how literacy is more than just reading; it’s drawing, listening, and writing. Each area of focus will help children gain a holistic understanding and appreciation of literacy.
The public library, daycare programs, families, and businesses will play an essential role in granting greater access to materials. For instance, parents will be encouraged to read bedtime stories to their children.
With the first planning meeting this week, the initial implementation of the L4GA program will probably be adaptable due to COVID-19. The first year might become more digital to protect the health of everyone involved.
UCS students have scored highly in literacy in the past, but low in writing. Davenport hopes the holistic approach of the L4GA program will lead to an improvement in writing scores as well. Typically, the school uses Milestone test scores to judge students’ abilities, but currently, the most recent data is from 2018-2019. Georgia canceled the Milestone tests for 2019-2020 and could do the same in 2020-2021 because of COVID-19.
Teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University will be collecting data from L4GA districts to document positive practices and gauge the overall impact of the L4GA Project.
A total of 23 schools received the grant for 2019. The award total was $22,101,554.
L4GA 2019 Grantees: Burke County Schools, Butts County Schools, Charlton County Schools, Clayton County Schools, Cook County Schools, Elbert County Schools, GaDOE State Schools, Glascock County Schools, Grady County Schools, Haralson County Schools, Lanier County Schools, Liberty County Schools, Newton County Schools, Paulding County Schools, Pike County Schools, Pulaski County Schools, Rockdale County Schools, Terrell County Schools, Toombs County Schools, Treutlen County Schools, Troup County Schools, Union County Schools, Vidalia City Schools.
“School districts selected for the first round of L4GA funding made great strides in student literacy learning,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I’m eager to see the progress made by our new grant recipients in the coming years. Making sure students are reading on grade-level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for the Georgia Department of Education, and we continue to seek all possible opportunities to support that work at the school and district level.”