Range Elementary School receives $250,000 reading grant

By Rozella Hardin

   Range Elementary School -- one of the smaller schools in Carter County -- has received a big boost for its reading program. Carroll Ellis, Title I Reading Instructor, was notified this week that the school has received a $250,000 federal Reading Excellence Act grant for pre-school through grade three.
   The main goal of the Reading Excellence Act is to have all students reading on or above grade level by the end of the third grade. The grants will provide state-of-the-art professional development for teachers along with adequate resources, which will result in growth in student achievement.
   "This grant will help us make a concerted effort to get children reading by the time they leave third grade. Researchers have found that if children are not reading at their grade level by the time they enter fourth grade they are going to struggle, and the learning process is going to become more difficult for them," Ellis said.
   He said he learned about the grant earlier this school year and the school was notified in January it was eligible to apply for the grant. Eligibility for the REA grants was based on a school's identification for Title I School improvement and/or its level of poverty. All eligible elementary schools were invited to submit REA grants. There were 128 REA grants submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education.
   Ellis said he attended several meetings in regards to the grant and made application for it. After researching the necessary data, Ellis wrote the grant and submitted it to the state department for approval. The request was for approximately $250,000 and for Range School only.
   The grant will provide for an additional instructor, who has a master's degree with an emphasis in reading. Several teachers applied for the position, which was filled by Betsy Oliver, who will be known as Literacy Leader at the school.
   According to Ellis, Oliver will assist in the Reading Instruction Program, a Parent Involvement Program, a Professional Development Program, Family Literacy and Early Childhood Program, Pre-K and K-1 transition programs, Extending Learning Programs, a pre-school program and year-round tutoring program.
   The grant will provide for a Parent Services Coordinator, who will be employed to assist with families requesting additional help for students in need of improving their reading skills. The REA grant will also provide instruction in reading and language arts for grades kindergarten through third grade.
   Ellis said the grant will provide funds for transportation to and from school as needed in the after-school and summer programs and will be funded for two years.
   In addition to 90 hours of professional development attended each year by the K-3 teachers, the literacy leader, the principal and the Title I reading teacher will receive an additional 10 days of professional development at ETSU beginning in June.
   Ellis said the grant sets forth 12 concepts as reading research, phonemic awareness, and assessment.
   "The grant will help us to enhance our tutoring program by providing one-on-one help. It will help us provide an after-school program and a summer program. While the programs will target at-risk students, reading instruction and help will be available to all students in pre-K through third grade. Our main objective will be to have these kids reading and reading well and comprehending what they read by the time they enter the fourth grade," Ellis said.
   "This grant will also allow us to implement programs to get parents involved in their child's reading program," he said.
   Tennessee Education Commissioner Faye Taylor in announcing the grants said, "Learning to read is the foundation of a child's entire educational career. These funds will provide much needed assistance to some of our most vulnerable students."
   Tennessee was awarded an overall grant of $28.6 million over a three-year period. The average grant award to schools is $324,000, with the range being from $128,950 to $368,000. The grant period runs from June 1, 2002 to August 2004.
   Other schools in the area awarded the REA grants were Lincoln Heights in Hamblen County, Neva in Johnson County, and Andrew Johnson in Kingsport City School System.