"Essentially what we're talking about is impacting the childrens' ability to read, especially at an early age," Bartow County Superintendent John Harper said. "The governor has emphasized reading at grade three, and we've focused on that since I've been in the seat of superintendent and we've seen some gain, but we certainly need some additional financial support to do some training and buy some technology and make things happen."
The system applied for the grant in late 2011, spending five weeks writing the 1,500 page grant.
"We just felt that with a literacy grant, what can we do from birth all the way to 12th grade in Bartow County, and so initially we sat down and thought how can we involve the entire community, so we talked to Cartersville city, we talked to the mayor and to the city council and commissioner to say, 'This is something we want to do as a whole system, not just Bartow County, but the city as well,'" said Director of Curriculum Buffy Williams, whose department filed for the grant.
The following districts submitted literacy plans and were granted a portion of the $24,752,919 in federal funds: Fulton County, Clarke County, Bartow County, Jeff Davis County, Morgan County, Jefferson County, Rome City, Brantley County and Cartersville City.
"I offer my sincere congratulations to these school districts for receiving a Striving Reader Comprehensive Literacy Grant," Barge said in a press release. "These grants will provide funding necessary for schools to build literacy plans for their students. Research is clear that students who are reading on grade level, especially after third grade, will be more likely to graduate from high school and be prepared for college and careers."
According to the release, "Grant funds will allow schools to develop literacy plans to better implement the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, assist schools in leveraging print and technology resources for student instruction and engagement, provide teachers with professional learning based on individual needs, foster implementation of research-based models of instruction, and provide useful student assessments."
Williams said the grants also will allow for the school systems to work more closely with the community in the area of promoting literacy.
"We'll be able to work with our pre-schoolers and also Bartow Advocates and some of our private schools to say, 'These are the same children that come through your pre-school program ... they may be coming to our school systems and we want to give them all the support we can,' because language is something we have to develop at home at an early age," Williams said.
She added the school systems are partnering with the Rollins Language Center in Atlanta to conduct training for parents and teachers to encourage literacy.
"We are amazed by the amount of children that we're getting in our pre-k program and kindergarten class that are on so many different reading levels. We have a big population, and it's not coming from a specific area, we're seeing it throughout the different programs, that the children are coming in very deficient in the area of language and we're not really sure why," Williams said.
Cartersville Director of Curriculum Peggy Cowan said the city shares the same goal with the county and rest of the state, placing an emphasis on students and the community grasping the need for literacy.
"Our proposal is from birth on to do the exact same thing, communicate literacy to our community and address the needs of students in various agencies that work with children that could potentially lag behind in their development," Cowan said. "... We'll have intensive training for our teachers, pre-k on, and we'll invite our community partners to be involved in some of the training.
"In terms of the literacy development of all children, we'll put in universal screenings so we'll know where each child is in their development and be able to address the specific needs of each child in terms of literacy, and literacy is reading, writing and communication, it's not just the reading component."