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Troup County continues to move forward on early literacy programs

Gov. Brian Kemp announced last week that the Georgia Department of Education has been awarded nearly $180 million through the federal Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grant to support literacy efforts in the state’s K-12 public schools. The grant is a continuation of a grant that is already making an impact on Troup County schools, according to Dr. Penny Johnson, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Learning.

“The Troup County School System received $1.4 million in the LFGA Grant,” Johnson said. “Our first year of implementation was back in 18-19, and so we are basically in year two of a three-year grant cycle.”

Those funds have been used to train teachers on how to help students of all reading ability levels, according to Johnson.

“The grant is being used for a lot of professional learning, which is making certain that our teachers and leaders are equipped to teach literacy to students at all different levels of development,” Johnson said. “Then [it is also used to purchase] curriculum materials.”

Johnson said that the grant provided funding for the LaGrange High School zone, which includes middle and elementary schools feeding into the high school, as well as a childcare provider.

“The key part of the grant is that there has to be a partnership between birth to post-secondary basically, and so part of the grant had to include a childcare provider,” Johnson said. “In the LaGrange zone, the childcare provider that we partnered with was Happy Days [Learning Center].”

Because the Troup County School System is currently in year two of a three-year grant cycle, it will not be eligible for the recently announced grant. However, Johnson said that she hopes to be able to apply for the grant again in the future if it remains available, especially considering its impact on local schools.

“It better equips our teachers by providing actual strategies to help them teach literacy to students regardless of whether they have deficits or they are on grade level,” Johnson said. “Some of the evidence that we’ve seen is that with a strong literacy focus — if you look at our GMAS scores from this past year — you see a strong improvement in the area of [English Language Arts] and reading.”

Johnson said that while the grant specifically focused on the LaGrange school zone, the school system has been able to use the training to make improvements throughout the school system.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, Georgia will receive a total of $179,174,766 over five years to continue the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) initiative, which aims to improve literacy outcomes for students from birth through twelfth grade.

Introduced by State School Superintendent Richard Woods 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 have partnered with early learning and care providers as well as community organizations to implement community efforts and improve classroom instruction.