Prompted by lackluster reading scores, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) in Jacksonville, Fla., is attempting to reach low-income students by turning students’ televisions into learning centers.
Part of the “Read it Forward Jax” program, into which the district is investing $5.5 million, TVtextbook units will let students without internet access plug into academic programming at home.
“The one area where we were not moving the needle enough was reading, and it ties into two other critical areas: elimination of the achievement gap and even higher graduation rates,” said DCPS Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. “In the midst of us cutting $91 million from our budget, we invested $5 million in the Read it Forward Jax campaign because it is the foundational skill.”
Only two-thirds of DCPS students were deemed proficient at reading in the third grade, which mirrored the district’s 66-percent graduation rate.
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“Our students weren’t making gains at the rate of increase that we needed to see,” said Jacqueline Bowen, the district’s supervisor of reading and language arts. “We really didn’t see the total engagement with the whole community and the family, because reading is such a complex task that it takes a community of people to improve it.”
District leaders recognized that without a strong background in reading, students would continue to struggle. And they’ve turned to a technology that is ubiquitous in students’ households to help close the gap.