Reading By Third

Tri-county education leaders came together to announce the Reading by Third initiative at the Trident United Way building in North Charleston on Aug. 15. Trident United Way President Chris Kerrigan (left) was joined by Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative CEO John Read (left to right), Trident United Way Vice President of Community Impact Amanda Lawrence, Dorchester School District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye, Dorchester School District 4 Superintendent Morris Ravenell, Charleston County School District Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait and Berkeley County School District Interim Superintendent Deon Jackson. Paul Bowers/Staff

Third grade is the year students go from learning how to read to reading to learn. And extra help is on the way at a dozen Lowcountry schools.

A growing number of teachers and education researchers have said learning deficits only worsen if children can't read by the end of third grade, and recent reports on learning deficits back them up.

The four school district superintendents of the tri-county area came together Tuesday to announce the Reading by Third Initiative, a partnership between their districts and Trident United Way.

"It's constant monitoring instead of waiting for them to fall behind and get them in some type of intervention services," said Morris Ravenell, superintendent of Dorchester County School District 4. "This is more of a proactive approach."

Supported by $1.5 million in funding from Trident United Way, the districts have offered training to teachers in 12 pilot schools through the University of Florida Lastinger Center. The training was designed to help teachers address students' skill levels in small groups or one-on-one.

During the three-year pilot program, the Charleston County School District will focus on pre-kindergarten students, while the other school districts focus on kindergarten through second grade. Teachers will try new instructional models and receive coaching from Lastinger employees throughout the school year.

The pilot schools include: Clay Hill Elementary, Harleyville Elementary, College Park Elementary, Oakbrook Elementary, A.C. Corcoran Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, Ladson Elementary and Midland Park Primary. Williams Memorial Elementary will begin the pilot program next school year.

The initiative is beginning at the same time that a major provision of South Carolina's Read to Succeed Act takes effect. Starting at the end of this school year, third-graders who can't pass the literacy portion of the standardized SC READY will be held back in third grade unless they meet certain exemptions or make enough progress in a summer literacy camp.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.