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College of Education selected to be part of project to improve literacy in Tennessee

Kim Chaudoin | 

Student teacher reading with a student.

 For the last decade, Tennessee has had historically low literacy rates. Current data indicates that a Tennessee student has a two-in-five chance of learning to read and write on grade level by the end of third grade. Pandemic-related school closures in 2020 and 2021 exacerbated achievement gaps across student groups and led to further declines in third grade English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency. 
With a graduate teacher preparation program recognized nationally for its rigorous preparation of future teachers in how to teach reading, Lipscomb University’s College of Education seeks to impact literacy in Tennessee and across the country. 

This past fall, Leslie Cowell, the dean of the College of Education, accepted the invitation for Lipscomb University to participate as one of four EPPs in a network known as the Lead In Literacy Network. This network is convened by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with a mission to catalyze transformative change in Tennessee education so all students can achieve success. This network is made up of a group of four Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) and four Local Education Agencies (LEAs) partners who are working together to develop solutions for increasing access to strong early literacy instruction for all students in the state. In this three-year network, each EPP will be partnered with a local school district to deepen partnership around educator preparation and support to reach this goal.

Leslie Cowell

Leslie Cowell

“We are committed to shaping a future where every student possesses the transformative key to understanding by equipping educators with the tools to cultivate literacy,” said Cowell. “The ability to read and comprehend is the cornerstone of intellectual growth for children as it opens up a world of knowledge, fosters language and brain development, stimulates imagination and creativity, supports academic success and lays the foundation for a lifelong love of learning."

Through the Lead in Literacy Network, EPP and LEA partners are working together to achieve three overarching goals: construct a shared vision and framework for early literacy instruction and support; facilitate aligned experiences for current and future educators grounded in the state’s ELA standards, high-quality instructional materials and the Instructional Practice Guide; and translate best practices in early literacy to improve support for all students, including multi-lingual and diverse learners. Participation in the network offers EPPs and LEAs dedicated time and support to deepen partnerships and to work together to improve literacy instruction in Tennessee. 

Lipscomb offers several programs to prepare teachers for literacy instruction that are considered among the best in the state and nation. This summer the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) named Lipscomb’s graduate teacher preparation program one of the top in the nation for excellence in meeting standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction—often called the “science of reading.” 

The college’s Master of Education in Instructional Practice, Grades K-5 with English language learner licensure program prepares current and future teachers in the science of reading. It is designed to meet the needs of educators and prepares teachers for success by equipping them with diverse strategies for instructional practice, including varied approaches to planning lessons, understanding learner needs and creating optimal learning environments. 

In addition, Lipscomb offers a reading specialty graduate education program which is grounded in the Science of Reading and best practices in the field to prepare teachers to be literacy leaders in their schools. From early foundational skills to adolescent literacy, Lipscomb’s courses offer a comprehensive study of reading and language development, assessment, and writing to equip you as an expert reading specialist. 

Aligned to the International Literacy Association’s standards for literacy professionals, Lipscomb’s reading specialty program prepares teachers to be confident with data, strategic with curriculum and collaborative with teachers and other professionals. The knowledge and skills you learn will help you support strong outcomes for all students, including multilingual learners and those with reading difficulties like dyslexia. Reading specialty degrees offered include Education Specialist (Ed.S.), a stackable Master of Education (M.Ed.) and a certificate (Endorsement). 

Find more information about Lipscomb’s College of Education and its many undergraduate and graduate offerings at