State education leaders look to expand literacy, technology init - - Columbia, South Carolina

State education leaders look to expand literacy, technology initiatives


State education leaders are forging big plans to expand literacy and technology in South Carolina schools for the upcoming academic year. If they're successful, it could mean more graduates snagging higher-paying jobs.

This week, organizers of the popular University of South Carolina's Cocky's Reading Express program plan to kick off a new program focused on the very youngest of readers. It's an initiative that starts with screening the hearing and speech of children in Calhoun County.

"Calhoun County has some very under served areas," said Kim Shealy Jeffcoat with the state Center for Children's Books and Literacy. "Maybe they didn't get their hearing checked, maybe they have speech delays, maybe they have other things they need to get helped with before they can be ready for kindergarten."

The six-week reading program, funded entirely by gifts and grants, uses iPads and a specialized app to track student progress, as well as year-round parental involvement events.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to make change we can measure," said Jeffcoat. "We can see what's working and then figure out how to replicate it on a larger scale."

Another program beginning this fall would help students obtain technology and software certifications before they graduate.

"Fifty percent of today's jobs require some technology skills, and within the next 5 years that number will grow to 77 percent," said Julissa Germosen, a business development manager for Microsoft.

Despite a 5 percent budget cut to school district funding for technology equipment, the Microsoft Technology Academy has been earmarked to receive $330,000.

"States determine whether it's an elected course, or whether its embedded within the current course, whether its history, science, math," said Germosen.

In North Carolina, more than 50,000 students received certifications this school year alone. But funding for the Microsoft Technology Academy could still be vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

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