BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — In East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, less than half of students are meeting their grade level average reading skills. Only 38% of 3rd graders are reading at their grade level, only 32% of 8th graders are meeting the average, and so on. The school district is aiming to bump those levels up with a new literacy blueprint.

It puts a major focus on young children to keep them from falling too far behind by focusing on early childhood education and makes sure students are getting the support they need in the higher grades to help ensure they will graduate and have successful academic careers.

“If you continue that pipeline, kids will do better from every single grade up and then become productive citizens to work for our great workforce here in our parish,” Superintendent Sito Narcisse said.

The key pillar is getting parents and the community involved in helping literacy rates in infancy. Narcisse said learning starts at birth and kids need to start their reading journey as soon as possible. Their review of the last year found children are struggling with understanding the meaning of words when they are written down. 

The program also includes professional support for teachers so they can better make targeted plans to help the unique needs of their classes. There is also an investment in community programs such as tutoring and bookmobiles.

“Now that we know more, we have data around how instruction has been this past year so next year we’ll take a look around the pillar around family and community engagement in particular,” said Barbara Lashley, chief of literacy at EBR Schools.

This plan is in partnership with some statewide goals that the Department of Education has set to bring Louisiana up from 49th in the nation for literacy. Recent legislation backs up the routine literacy checks throughout the year to create a plan for individual students.

This next school year will be the first full year these programs are going to be implemented but EBR Schools said it’s going to take a few years before we start to see the results of these programs. There will be regular meetings of the task force to review the blueprint to see how it is working in individual schools.

Read the district’s plan to tackle literacy rates here.