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Improving Literacy in the Florida Panhandle

Southeast | April 28, 2023

Partnering to Support the Region

This is an image of a teacher reading to a group of kindergarten students.

The REL Southeast Florida Panhandle K-5 Literacy Partnership is focused on improving literacy in north Florida panhandle elementary schools, one of the most rural areas of the state.

Geographically, the north Florida panhandle includes the mid-size state capital (Tallahassee) surrounded by several small, rural counties. The rural school districts in the region (with the exception of Leon County which includes Tallahassee) formally collaborate through the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC)—Florida's first legislatively created Educational Consortium. PAEC helps small districts in the region with limited resources better serve children, teachers, and administrators. PAEC serves 14 districts, representing over 45,000 students.

Although not a formal PAEC member, Leon County Schools (LCS), collaborates frequently with PAEC to support their shared educational needs. LCS serves approximately 33,000 students, and like its PAEC colleagues, many schools within the district have the desire to improve early literacy outcomes for students. Both PAEC and LCS agree that a partnership approach through the REL Southeast can help them accomplish their common goals focused on improving literacy instruction and interventions in elementary schools.

Grades K-5 Literacy Academy Project

Current partnership work includes a Grades K-5 Literacy Academy training project and dissemination events focused on sharing REL Southeast tools focused on supporting and improving literacy at school and home. The Grades K-5 Literacy Academies project includes three strands: summer reading camps, differentiated literacy instruction in grades K-3, and content area literacy strategy instruction in grades 4-5.

Quick Interview with Partnership Member Kris Bray

In order provide insight on beginning a regional partnership, REL Southeast is highlighting the work of a key partnership member instrumental in initiating this effort. It can be challenging work, and connecting with a key stakeholder early in the process can go a long way toward partnership success.

Kris Bray is the Data and Academic Manager for PAEC. Kris has been instrumental in the startup of the partnership, so we sat down with her to see how things are going from her perspective.

What role have you played so far as a REL Southeast Florida Panhandle K-5 Literacy Partnership member?

I have been working very closely with the partnership manager to make sure that we are not only sharing the needs of the region, but also working with the REL Southeast staff to determine what support the REL Southeast can provide to districts and schools for their implementation of best practices in literacy and ensure that students are growing. Our role at PAEC in this partnership is a logistical one as well as we help to recruit participants for the current training and coaching project, schedule and host events at our professional learning sites, and plan for future projects. We make every effort to ensure that we can pull educators together and make training and coaching sessions across this wide region convenient for all.

As a lead partnership member from PAEC, what are your goals for this partnership?

My goal for this partnership is providing evidence-based professional development to educators across our region. This means to me especially focusing on supporting our teachers to increase their knowledge, skills, and ability to implement evidence-based literacy practices in our elementary classrooms. I also think a significant goal for me has always been to have continued collaboration with school and district literacy leaders from across the Florida Panhandle region to ensure that we can connect and build common language to make sure that everything we do focuses on moving from professional development to application, making sure that practices can be applied successfully in schools and classrooms so that we see positive change.


Kevin Smith

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