Trousdale County Elementary School media specialist Mary Raines was recently selected to be on this year’s Educator Advisory Council (EAC) as selected by the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF).
Raines is one of 28 teachers representing 19 school districts across the state, in addition to three charter schools in Memphis and Nashville, who were chosen to help the GELF determine the best resources for the K-3 Home Library program to help meet the summer literacy needs of students throughout Tennessee.
“This is a really great program that will benefit our students,” said Raines. “(The GELF) took applications and went through them one by one and chose 28 (to be on the EAC). The formatting of the application process included all of Tennessee. So, it wasn’t just centralized in Middle Tennessee.
“The council has a good mix. They’ve got reading interventionists, teachers, district specialists, and coordinators from district offices. So, they really have a good mixture across the board.”
Trousdale County Elementary School Principal Demetrice Badru added, “There were more than 60 applicants that applied, and 28 were chosen. Mrs. Raines is an integral part of the reading program here, especially with early literacy. She takes care of different programs where she receives free books and inputs that data. I can definitely see how she would be chosen (for the EAC). She would be a natural selection.”
The need for a K-3 Home Library program for students developed after test scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) determined that only 35% of Tennessee third-graders were able to read proficiently.
“With the early literacy law, students who are in third grade now must be proficient on this year’s TCAP test in order to advance to the fourth grade,” said Badru. “With that, there are other factors that come into play, but if they are not successful, then they may enroll in summer learning bridge camp and achieve 90% attendance. They may retake the TCAP and earn a proficient score. They may be promoted to the fourth grade, but they have to participate in after-school tutoring for the entire fourth-grade year. With that, they must participate in one of the mentioned options, or they will be retained, which means they will have to repeat the third grade. There are very limited exceptions to the law.”
According to the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, the primary responsibility of the EAC is to select the books that Tennessee students and teachers will receive in the mail for the summer of 2023 as part of its K-3 Home Library program. The GELF, together with Scholastic, mails high-quality, age-appropriate books to kindergarten through third-grade students and teachers to help prevent learning loss and support student learning at home during summer break.
“By having Mrs. Raines on the council, she can help select high-quality, grade-level texts that actually help children read better so that fewer students are retained,” said wTrousdale County Director of Schools Clint Satterfield. “Having somebody from a school district that’s been successful ... I think their voice may have more weight.”
Raines added, “We had our first meeting, and what they explained is that we will be going through the box of books that we received. We are looking to see if the books fit our students, or if they don’t fit our students. We are looking for high-quality books that are going to engage (the students) and push them to bridge that learning gap. That means the kids have to be able to relate to the books, or they will not read them. Then, it will become a chore. My focus group is on the rising second grade, so I’m looking for books that will push them up to the second-grade level.”
Since the EAC’s function is to evaluate books for the K-3 Home Library program, each member of the council will provide feedback so that the books that are chosen will be age-appropriate and relevant to all students across the state, instill in them a love of reading, and meet early-literacy goals.
“We get the same books,” said Raines. “That way we can all form an opinion on everything, and it’s not just one person saying, ‘We need this book.’ It is a collection of people saying yes to this book, no to that book, or maybe to another.
“The goal of early literacy is to catch students before they get to the higher grades and get too far behind. It is much harder to catch up the farther behind you get. So, they’re trying to take the pressure off of students by meeting those early literacy goals. They’re trying to prevent students from becoming frustrated. We don’t want students to hate reading because reading is a foundational skill.”
Raines, and other council members, will serve on the EAC for the duration of the 2022-2023 school year. Applications will be available for Tennessee teachers to apply for next year’s EAC in the spring.