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New literacy initiative launches in Tennessee

January 5, 2021 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Education hopes a new literacy initiative will help teachers and school districts reach struggling readers.

Officials plan to spend $100 million on “Reading 360,” which was launched Monday across the state, The Tennessean reported.

Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered classrooms, only about 36% of Tennessee’s third graders could read on grade level and educators anticipate struggling students will have fallen further behind.

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The new phonics-based reading program provides optional training and materials for school districts and resources for parents. It also gives districts access to grants to support tutoring programs and provide training to teachers.

“When you think about the initiative overall, it’s a comprehensive approach to reading in the state,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in an interview Monday. “It is specifically intended to address with urgency the literacy crisis that we are experiencing.”

The effort uses $60 million in federal funding earmarked for COVID-19 recovery, and another $40 million from federal grants.