Public PK-12 School District in Dalton, Georgia

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Whitfield County Recognized with Pacesetter Award
“They recognize that communities like ours are making a change in the students’ lives.”
Girl colouring in little cats

Whitfield County, which includes Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools, was one of 19 communities across the country to be awarded a Pacesetter in Grade-Level- Proficiency and a Bright Spot in Parent Success for the Get Georgia Reading Campaign community work in 2019. This award recognizes the ongoing efforts of providing high quality accessible educational resources for students and families.

This esteemed accolade comes from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading (CGLR) a program centered on helping young children from low-income families be proficient readers by the time they get to third grade.

Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools were the only two school systems in the entire state of Georgia to achieve this extraordinary accomplishment. The goal is to ensure that these students will graduate and be prepared for college, a career and active citizenship.

For Dalton Public Schools, third grade reading scores improved by 8%. In 2015, the percentage of third graders meeting English Language Arts milestones was at 24% and by 2019 it increased to 32%.

Many DPS program initiatives have served as a catalyst to push higher levels of reading proficiency in the lives of young learners.

The set of innovative programs include the Roan Resource Center, Little Cats, Big Red READS and more. The Roan Resource Center helps jumpstart a child's educational journey by providing valuable resources to students and their families. Little Cats is a program geared for young children who are given the opportunity to attend half-day classes to build their numeracy, literacy and many other skills. Big Red READS is a "mobile library" that visits schools and feeding sites with free books for children during the summer.

Each of these programs strives to enhance a student's learning journey by giving them more opportunities and resources for success.

Caroline Woodason, director of school support, has been instrumental in ensuring that student's and their families have the tools they need to thrive in and out of the classroom.

"I'm here to make a difference," Woodason said. "Being able to see the difference in young children and parents will have a long lasting impact on not only the future of our community, but the future of those individual children."

In a decade long effort, several community leaders have chosen to lead an early childhood initiative to combat the lack of resources and close the educational gap.

The goal was to collaborate with as many schools organizations to improve school readiness among the children of Northwest Georgia.

Woodason recognizes the educational disadvantages some students across the district may face. However, the programs in place provide a solid learning foundation for many students.

"Our kids don't have the opportunities, information or knowledge that kids from other higher economic levels have," Woodason said. "We're trying to help educate our young children so they don't get left behind before they even get to kindergarten."

The blueprint for setting up students and families for success has been a long time in the making. Woodason said she believes this recognition will only further advance the tools and resources that are already in place for students.

"It's great to be able to have this recognition and show we're making an impact," Woodason said. "They recognize that communities like ours are making a change in the students' lives."