New plan created to improve grade-level reading in Manatee County

By Anna Bryson 
Staff Writer 

A fourth grade class takes a practice test at Samoset Elementary School in Bradenton.

There are 32 elementary schools in Manatee County and 49% of third-graders are not reading on grade level. At 10 Title 1 schools, that number rises to 75%.

Children who read on grade level by the end of third grade, statistics show, are more likely to graduate high school and have higher lifelong incomes than those who don’t.

United Way Suncoast, along with a group of agencies and foundations, is working with the Manatee County School District on a new plan to improve grade-level reading at the 10 Title 1 schools.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is on its fifth year and now it’s time to “dig deep,” said Bronwyn Beightol, Manatee area president of United Way Suncoast.

At a Manatee County School Board meeting Tuesday, Beightol presented an early draft of the plan, which is expected to be finalized by mid-June and implemented in the 2019-20 school year.

It will initially focus on Palm View Elementary and Samoset Elementary. The principals of these schools set a goal to cut the number of students not reading on grade level in half by next year.

“When we have this many children who are struggling, who need us the most, in order to make an impact on our district as a whole, we need to get really good at addressing the issues facing our children in these particular schools,” Beightol said at the board meeting.

After the plan is implemented at the two pilot schools, it will expand to include the other eight elementary schools that have the fewest third graders reading at grade level.

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