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Tampa Bay Business Journal: Pinellas County’s new early learning effort aims to create lifelong, career-ready learners

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Pinellas County’s new early learning effort aims to create lifelong, career-ready learners

(Sept. 3, 2021)  The future of business development is brighter in Pinellas County.

Last month, the Helios Education Foundation invested $1 million, the Pinellas Education Foundation chipped in $500,000, and the Pinellas Early Literacy Initiative was born.

It takes a long-range vision, but investment in a child’s first five years strengthens the workforce, boosts economic growth and reduces back-end social spending. The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s recent “Florida 2030 Blueprint” set a goal for 100 percent of Florida third-graders to be reading on grade level by the end of the decade. It has a long way to go. Covid sent the numbers in the wrong direction. Statewide, the average drop in the third-grade reading exams was 4 percentage points across districts, Florida Department of Education reports show. Overall, 54% of third-graders passed the spring 2021 reading exams compared to 58 percent in 2019.

But the new Helios/Pinellas collaboration is all about making a bigger impact by reaching very young kids.

Helios wants to help make students academically prepared at every stage of the education continuum ”and ultimately, graduate college and be career-ready,” it said in a statement. (Read full article)