City Leaders Prioritize Big Gains in Third-Grade Literacy

Nashville Literacy Collaborative Logo FINAL

In coordination with the Mayor’s Office and Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph, a new effort kicks off this month to bring greater focus, bolder thinking and a collective approach to tackling Nashville’s early literacy rates. The Nashville Literacy Collaborative – formed by the Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF) and the Nashville Public Library (NPL) – is a six-month effort to sharpen the community’s focus on the issue and chart a course that can bring about accelerated progress. The effort includes commissioned research to map existing community resources invested in early literacy efforts and help shape a larger community response.

A 20-person community working group convened in partnership between Mayor Megan Barry, Dr. Joseph, the NPEF and the NPL will begin meeting later this month. Members of the working group include:

  • Angie Adams, PENCIL
  • Elyse Adler, Nashville Public Library
  • Harry Allen, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Chamber Education Report Card Co-Chairman
  • Paige Atchley, Tennessee Department of Education and Read to be Ready
  • Adriana Bialostozky, Vanderbilt Hospital
  • Carolyn Cobbs, Cumberland Elementary School
  • Monique Felder, MNPS
  • Rae Finnie, Glengarry Elementary School
  • Tari Hughes, Center for Nonprofit Management
  • Shannon Hunt, Nashville Public Education Foundation
  • Melissa Jaggers, Alignment Nashville
  • Erica Mitchell, United Way of Metropolitan Nashville
  • Laura Moore, Mayor’s Office
  • Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library
  • Tara Scarlett, Scarlett Foundation
  • Renata Soto, Conexión Américas
  • Melissa Spradlin, Book’em
  • Amanda Tate, Nashville Public Library Foundation
  • Denine Torr, Dollar General Literacy Foundation
  • Whitney Weeks, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Currently, only 34 percent of third-graders in MNPS read at grade level by the end of third grade – a critical, early milestone that is often viewed as a leading indicator of student success. Research shows there is a direct correlation between kids who miss this milestone and high school drop-out rates, college graduation, lifetime earnings and more.

“Reading at grade level is a major indicator for a child’s academic success, and a child’s academic success is a strong indicator for the future of Nashville,” Mayor Barry said. “The Nashville Literacy Collaborative will provide critical insights that will help us better understand and support the city’s early literacy needs.”

The hope is, with a more concerted, unified effort, Nashville can post significant gains in third-grade literacy. The urgency of this issue was underscored in the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Education Report Card, which highlighted early literacy as a pressing need. Dr. Joseph and Mayor Barry have also prioritized the issue.

“There are no priorities more central to our success than literacy,” Dr. Joseph said. “As a school district, we have to focus on improving first-time instruction as well as interventions when students fall behind. But our efforts will be far more effective with a communitywide strategy to support our work. We’re excited to see the community rally around our students’ needs in this way.”

The NPEF will fund and manage research and planning resources for the collaborative, while the NPL will support the work with additional staff resources. Lipscomb University will lead research, with an immediate charge of mapping existing community efforts and helping to assess where there are gaps in service, unmet needs, opportunities to think bigger and better ways to align resources. The Lipscomb team is led by Dr. Kristine LaLonde, associate dean for the College of Leadership and Public Service.

“We have an opportunity to do something big and bold that will make a difference in the lives and futures of our kids,” said Shannon Hunt, NPEF CEO and president. “Getting there requires a true citywide effort that is larger than any single organization. The Nashville Literacy Collaborative unites teachers, nonprofits and city leaders around one goal – providing better outcomes for Nashville’s children.”

“The Nashville Public Library is proud to support this important early literacy effort,” said Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library director. “This collaborative will strive to bring innovative ideas and forward thinking to the table as we work together, helping Nashville’s students become ready to read at grade level by the critical third-grade juncture.”

In addition to the working group, input will be sought from literacy groups, faith and volunteer partners, parents, students, and educators.

The goal is to have agreed on a shared mission and have a framework in place for an effective, research-based, citywide strategy to improve early literacy outcomes by summer 2017.

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