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published on 08/26/2008

Hamilton County Schools Gets $3.9 million

Hamilton County Department of Education

Hamilton County Schools was one of 31 programs in the nation selected to receive an Early Reading First Grant from the United States Department of Education this year.

The federal funds, totaling $3.9 million for the system, are awarded competitively to local programs around the country. The grants are designed to enhance young children’s language and cognitive development by providing high quality instruction and research-based professional development to teachers.

The three-year grant, which will fund the HCDE Great Beginnings Early Literacy Initiative, was written by Dr. Brenda Benford, Director of Pre-Kindergarten programs for Hamilton County Schools. It is a collaboration between Hamilton County Department of Education, Chattanooga Human Services, City of Chattanooga Head Start, and Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter. The program will serve 425 preschool children (3 to 5 years old) at Orchard Knob Elementary, Chattanooga Human Services Child Care Center, Children’s Home/Signal Centers, Avondale Head Start, and Cedar Hill Head Start.

“Many of our children face daunting challenges as they enter kindergarten lacking the necessary skills to learn how to read,” Dr. Benford said. “A recent study locally said one in four children will not be prepared for Kindergarten. Early Reading First offers an exciting opportunity to meet this challenge by helping to ensure that children are provided with a high-quality preschool education.”

This initiative will also allow these Pre-K programs to effectively utilize literacy-based curricula and create learning environments that build a strong foundation of basic literacy skills by integrating strategies, instructional materials, and literacy activities into existing programs.

As part of the project the district will extend the number of weeks children are served and hire support staff that would focus on assessment, curricula, instruction, and professional development for administrators, staff (teachers and assistants), and families. The grant will allow the district to hire literacy coaches, a family literacy coordinator and other preschool program support staff.

“This initiative will transform our existing preschool programs into centers of excellence that provide a high-quality education for preschool children,” Dr. Benford said. “The earlier we can get to them and help our students have quality instruction, experiences and learning environments, the more successful students will be when they attend elementary school. This is truly a win-win for the entire community.”

Hamilton County Schools currently operates 44 preschool programs in schools and community sites throughout Hamilton County.

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