State Rolling Out New Literacy Initiative

Dave Williams

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

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The Georgia Department of Education is launching a literacy initiative aimed at both improving literacy among students and training educators on the science of reading.

The Georgia Literacy Academy, a partnership between the state and the Atlanta-based Rollins Center for Language & Literacy, will be rolled out in nine school districts and three charter schools for its first two years.

Participants will include the Colquitt, Dooly, Grady, Lowndes, Muscogee, Seminole and Thomas county school districts; the Pelham and Valdosta city school districts, the International Academy of Smyrna, The Kindezi Schools, and ZEST Preparatory Academy.

In addition, courses developed by the academy will be available to all K-5 teachers and educational leaders free of charge.

“It is our fundamental responsibility to ensure students learn to read, and then- for the rest of their lives – can read to learn,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said Monday. “This partnership will strengthen early literacy instruction for students across the state.”

Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly have made improving Georgia’s literacy rates a priority. This year, lawmakers passed and Kemp signed two literacy bills introducing two related approaches to literacy instruction: “the science of reading” and “structured literacy.”  

The science of reading bundles together instruction on phonics with reading comprehension and vocabulary.

“Structured literacy,” as defined by one of the new laws, refers to an “evidence-based approach to teaching oral and written language … characterized by explicit, systematic, cumulative, and diagnostic instruction.” 

More than 125 leaders from school districts and individual schools will receive both in-person and virtual coaching during the next two years. The first course is set to launch this month.

The initiative builds on the success of the Rollins Center’s successful collaboration with Marietta City Schools. Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera, school board member Jaillene Hunter and several Marietta teachers gave a presentation on their school district’s literacy efforts last month to the Georgia Council on Literacy, which the General Assembly created this year to work on improving literacy in the Peach State.

“The stars are aligned in Georgia around literacy,” said Amy Denty, the state Department of Education’s director of literacy. “We are thrilled to implement this proven model of structured literacy coursework and coaching on a greater scale, extending its positive impact to districts, teachers, and students across the state.”

About Dave Williams

Dave Williams has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1999 and for several years before that, covered Georgia’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. He began his career in radio news in Florida and Upstate New York.