FWISD plans new focus on literacy by grade 3

Kent Scribner

It may look like a math problem, but 100×25 is more than that. For the Fort Worth Independent School District, those numbers represent what Superintendent Kent Scribner calls a “bold” and “unprecedented” reading program.

“We want the entire community to have a level of awareness around the importance of literacy,” Scribner said. “It’s really a movement.”

100×25 is a literacy initiative that the school district plans to begin on Sept. 26. The goal is to have 100 percent of third graders reading at grade level by 2025 – hence the name, “100” by “25.” BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose will head the project, while Kristen Sullivan, former University of Texas at Arlington associate vice president for communications, will be executive director.

“The goal is that everything the city touches – all our parks programs, all our summer programs, all our library programs, every community center program – will focus on literacy, with the goal being all of our children in 2025,” Mayor Betsy Price told the audience at the Four Mayors of Fort Worth event held Aug. 29. “That’s because the kids born today will be in third grade at 2025. The goal is to get everyone focused on literacy.”

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Once the program begins, Scribner said, the first step would be to raise awareness, similar to the “Don’t Mess With Texas” statewide anti-litter campaign. He said the school district will meet with business and community leaders to create subcommittees that will find ways to incorporate literacy into activities both in school and out, as well as identify which programs work – and don’t work – in teaching students how to read.

Scribner said part of the reason for 100×25 is to prepare Fort Worth for the state government’s 60x30TX initiative, whose goal is to have 60 percent of adults in Texas with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.

The problem in Fort Worth, Scribner said, is that just 30 percent of third graders are reading at third-grade level. At third grade, students shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” No longer are they taught how to sound out vowels or put letters together to form words. Instead, they’re expected to read in order to learn other subjects. With 70 percent of third graders unable to read at the appropriate level, they consequently have difficulty in other areas such as math and science, Scribner said.

Scribner said he believes Fort Worth students are struggling because about 77 percent of the district’s students live at or below the federal poverty line.

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“Not every family has the capacity to spend the time and money and attention in preparing their students for school,” he said.

That’s why he hopes businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can take part in 100×25, not just to promote literacy but also to guide the school district in preparing students for future careers.

“We need to be matching our preparation with what is needed in the workforce,” he said. “Education and the economy are inextricably linked. I’m a firm believer in a successful and thriving educational system. That will accelerate the economic growth in the region.”