Emmy Iannone teachers a kindergarten class at Heards Ferry Elementary early in the school year. (Anne Boatwright/FCS)

The Every Child Reads campaign launched by Fulton County Schools has seen student proficiency rates rising above pre-pandemic levels to outpace state and national scores, according to officials.

Every Child Reads is one of the high-dosage, small-group tutoring programs set up across the district for grades K-12.

Performance by third-grade students grew by three and four percentage points, respectively, from 2022 to 2023, according to an FCS presentation. Scores in 2023 have exceeded 2019 in both English Language Arts and Math.

FCS has trained its district leaders, principals, and early elementary – K through five –staff on the science of reading. Cliff Jones, who serves as chief of staff for the school district, called the science of reading fundamental to the changes seen in the school district.

“We’ve known about the science of reading and the pillars of reading for over 20 years as an industry. But it’s really been recently that we’ve had the money and the courage to do all the pillars that are necessary to get an early reader the ability and the support to be able to read a great book,” he said.

Each elementary school has a dedicated literacy coach to help teachers and support the students, Jones said. High-quality resources have been adopted that align to this training. This created a culture of literacy in FCS that saw milestones such as a 4 percent increase in third graders reading at or above grade level, raising it to 76 percent, he said.

 A key component of the Every Child Reads campaign is writing, Jones said. The district developed strategies for teachers that may result in parents and other community members receiving letters or notes of gratitude from students.

“We’re really just homing in on this writing piece for our children to grow this year. And we’re excited about creating avenues and strategies where people see our students’ work on display, and where they see their views,” Jones said.

The school system needs parental involvement to help students achieve these goals, he said. Parents reading to their children nightly sets them up for success in the long haul.

Parents also need to be communicative partners with a teacher or an administrator. And they need to follow their child’s progress by using the parent portal. Participating in a PTA or PTO can help students and the community, Jones said.

High school students also improved proficiency to reach milestones not seen during the pandemic, according to statistics. Fulton County exceeded the state and the metro RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) in “proficient and above” in all tested subjects, according to Jones. Scores of proficient and above increased by five percentage points in Algebra I and four percentage points in Biology.

Jones attributed improvements to the tutoring programs offered in the schools.

“This is a high dose, small group tutoring effort, both during the day and after school that we’re paying for with our funds for vendors. And we’re able to support students, all students across the district, who need a little extra support, participating in this program,” he said.

He also said summer school efforts have made a big impact at the high school level where students saw the extra time pay off on tests like Algebra I and Biology.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.