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Department of Education grant awarded for Project Reel

A team of UTC faculty has received a grant of $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Educator Professional Development (ECEPD) grant program to implement a statewide training program for early childhood educators. The UTC team received one of only five grants awarded.

The Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program was established to enhance the school readiness of young children, particularly disadvantaged young children. The program also prevents children from encountering difficulties after they enter school.

“A child who enters kindergarten without rich opportunities to learn basic concepts and words is at a serious disadvantage and often struggles his or her entire academic career,” said Dr. Mary Tanner, Dean of the College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies. “The training provided by Project REEL will enable the selected child care providers to foster the much-needed language, literacy, numeracy and social skills of young children living in high need communities across Tennessee. Participants will be equipped with the knowledge and ability to implement curriculum in a developmentally effective way that leads to an increase in the skills necessary for school success.”

Of the five funded projects, UTC's proposal earned the distinction of being the top-ranked program of more than 125 applications reviewed by the Department of Education.

An interdisciplinary team of faculty in the College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences, the statewide Childcare Resource & Referral Network, Signal Centers, and the Siskin Children’s Institute formed a partnership to design and implement the statewide training program known as Project REEL (Resources for Early Educator Learning). The co-directors are:

  • Dr. Sarah Sandefur, UC Foundation Assistant Professor of Literacy Education
  • Dr. Amye Warren, UC Foundation Professor of Psychology and
  • Anne Gamble, Director of Project Ready for School.

Additionally, Dr. Pam Guess, Assistant Professor in Education Graduate Studies, will serve as Behavioral and Special Needs Coordinator and provide information on environmental, instructional, and behavioral strategies for children with special needs. Dr. Julie Buck in the Department of Psychology will serve as the Project Evaluation Director, overseeing the major evaluation protocol associated with this demonstration project.

In addition to being the top-ranked proposal in the United States, co-directors Sandefur, Warren, and Gamble also have the honor of being the only team in the country ever to be awarded two ECEPD awards. The team received a $608,000 ECEPD award in 2002 to implement the Early SUCCESS project.

Curriculum under Project REEL will prepare childhood educators to serve diverse learners, including typically-developing children and children with disabilities, challenging behaviors, limited English proficiency, or indications of abuse.

“In a state where statewide 43% of fourth graders score below basic reading level and 30% score below basic math level, it is just this kind of effort that can set the stage for achievement throughout a child’s school career,” said Dean MaryTanner.

November 4, 2005

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