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Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative

Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative

Improving kindergarten readiness and literacy proficiency

The Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative aims to improve kindergarten readiness rates and literacy proficiency among Pre-K and elementary school students.

About the Program

How it started

In 2020, Pinellas County Schools (PCS) convened a meeting to discuss early literacy and how to help prepare children entering kindergarten for success in early grades and beyond. Soon after, the Pinellas Education Foundation brought together leaders from PCS, the Juvenile Welfare Board, Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, Helios Education Foundation and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg to raise broader community awareness of the role of early childhood education in literacy outcomes for students. Additionally, the committee would explore areas for potential improvement. Their first step was to conduct a scan of early literacy in Pinellas County which included data on voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) school readiness and the early grades. Initial findings confirmed a need to advance the skills and knowledge of Pre-K and K-2 teachers.

To build the necessary skills and knowledge among educators, the Initiative supports school-based teams of principals, assistant principals, teachers and literacy professionals through staff development and training, coaching in the classroom, and “communities of practice.”


What we do

Educators have long understood that reading achievement is a determinant of academic success in all subject areas. The Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative, a program developed by the Pinellas Education Foundation and Pinellas County Schools, aims to improve kindergarten readiness rates and literacy proficiency among Pre-K and elementary school students. The Initiative focuses on kindergarten readiness by extending the science of reading into Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) and K-2 classrooms where teachers have an opportunity to affect educational achievement through evidence-based instruction.

The Initiative is rooted in the belief that teachers and leaders are the lynchpin to higher student achievement. And a large component of the program provides training, resources and tools to those who are teaching the county’s youngest students. The objective: to increase the number of students who are reading on grade level before they reach the third grade, when academic progress is assessed. By marshaling resources to enhance support of Pre-K and K-2 teachers, leaders hope to impact the number of students who are kindergarten-ready and developing grade-appropriate emergent literacy skills.


Program background and objectives

The Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative (PELI) calls for a strategic focus on prioritizing improvements in literacy instruction for Pre-K and K-2 students and teachers in 16 Title I schools (in two cohorts of eight) and up to 16 community-based Pre-K providers. Recognizing that a kindergarten readiness gap exists for Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) participants, particularly for low-income and minority students, this initiative connects public and private Pre-K providers to developmentally appropriate literacy training and coaching being provided in K-12. By leveraging high quality professional development with instructional coaching for both Pre-K and K-2 teachers, early student literacy gaps will dissipate more rapidly, effectively preparing students for the more rigorous content of grades 3-5. The need for additional resources in later grades will also be reduced.

Professional development on the science of reading and evidence-based early literacy practices are essential pathways to excellence and equity. Over the four-year program, Pinellas County Schools (PCS) will ensure that 100% of Pre-K and K-2 teachers at these targeted schools and private providers increase their knowledge of the science of reading as well as implement evidence-based practices, resulting in dramatic improvements in outcomes for students.


Anticipated outcomes

The program indicator (number and percent of students who read on grade level or demonstrate progress) will be measured by PCS standardized test data, using Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) English Language Arts (ELA) test scores. Students will complete MAP testing at the beginning, middle and end of each school year to show learning gains in ELA. Kindergarten readiness rates of the students as measured by Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener (FLKRS) will be evaluated as well. Specific outcome measures include:

  • Increase the percentage of Level 3 (proficient) students as measured by MAP in K-2
  • Decrease the percentage of Level 1 readers as measured by MAP in grades K, 1, and 2 at targeted schools
  • Decrease the gap in the ELA-Reading proficiency for black students by an average of 5% each year until the gap is eliminated
  • Increase the percentage of students ready for kindergarten as measured by FLKRS
  • Decrease the gap in kindergarten readiness for black students by an average of 5% each year until the gap is eliminated



How it’s going

16 Schools participating in the initiative

4,176 Pre-K-2nd grade students served by the initiative

399 Teachers and administrators impacted by the project

8% Increase in reading proficiency among 2nd grade students

4% Decrease in the reading proficiency gap between 2nd grade Black and non-Black students

To learn more about how you can support this program call (727) 588-4816 ext. 2103 or email