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Schools in Pine Bluff, region awarded state literacy funds

by Sandra Hope | November 17, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
The Dollarway School District has been under state control for almost five years. The state Education Board has to decide by December what the future holds for the district. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Byron Tate)

The Arkansas Department of Education announced that $5.5 million literacy subgrants are being awarded to 128 schools and districts, including several in Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas.

The complete list of recipients can be found at https://bit.ly/3nwdXFh. The funds are part of a five-year, $38 million federal grant the ADE received previously, according to a Monday news release.

Area recipients of the Successful Outcomes for Arkansas Readers (SOAR) subgrants include:

• Pine Bluff School District (Southwood Elementary School $30,000; Pine Bluff High School $50,000; Jack Robey Middle School $40,000; 34th Street Elementary School $30,000; Broadmoor Elementary School $15,000;) Dollarway School District $67,677.50; Watson Chapel School District $99,976.67;

• Dumas School District $60,000; Hermitage School District $25,000; McGehee School District $50,000; Sheridan School District $100,000; Star City School District $85,719.97; Stuttgart School District $80,000.

The U.S. Department of Education previously awarded the Arkansas Department of Education a five-year grant totaling $38 million (the most allowed under the grant) for the Arkansas Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program, which aims to improve literacy outcomes for students in grades Pre-K through 12.

Ninety-five percent of the funds will be subgranted to schools, districts, and community partners, according to the release.

Since being awarded the grant, ADE accepted applications for the Successful Outcomes for Arkansas Readers (SOAR) subgrant and identified 128 schools and districts that will receive funds this first year.

Also, $1.2 million is being awarded to the Arkansas Imagination Library, a program under Dolly Parton's Imagination Library that provides free books to families.

"We were extremely excited to award these much-needed funds to deserving schools and districts that submitted comprehensive plans to improve literacy at their schools and in their communities," ADE Secretary Johnny Key said.

"I cannot stress enough the importance of building a strong foundation in reading, and through this grant, educators will take their literacy programs to the next level, resulting in increased student access to books, robust reading programs, and an improved culture of reading."

Schools and districts will use the grants to do the following:

• Develop and implement a comprehensive literacy instruction plan across all content areas;

• Provide high-quality professional development opportunities for educators;

• Provide assistance to leadership regarding the support, development, administration, and evaluation of high-quality literacy initiatives;

• Coordinate the involvement of early childhood educators;

• Foster collaboration among various stakeholders; and

• Build a culture of reading.

The subgrants build upon the efforts of R.I.S.E. Arkansas (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) that was launched by ADE and Gov. Asa Hutchinson in January 2017. The program's objectives are to strengthen reading instruction, create community collaboration, and build a culture of reading.

To learn more about R.I.S.E. Arkansas, visit http://www.risearkansas.org.

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