Madison Parish, Tallulah Head Start, and SEDL Team Up for the Bright Futures Early Reading First Program

October 31, 2007
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

Madison Parish Public School System, the Delta Community Action Association Head Start, and SEDL are pleased to announce the receipt of an Early Reading First grant in the amount of $3,060,535. The three are partners in the Bright Futures Early Reading First Project to develop three Preschool Centers of Educational Excellence.

Madison Parish Public School System is the only Louisiana district to receive Early Reading First funding to date and is one of only 32 agencies to receive funding nationwide in the latest competition.

Madison’s Bright Futures project will serve 286 preschool students in one of the poorest counties in the nation. The students attend Tallulah and Wright elementary schools and the Tallulah Head Start Center, all located in Tallulah, Louisiana. Thirty-three teachers and paraprofessionals at the three schools will receive high-quality professional development provided by SEDL and core reading program consultants.

Patricia Candler, the chief academic officer for the parish, said, “Our district wants to get our students on the right track through the Bright Futures project. Literacy is a problem here in the district and it has contributed to a high dropout rate. We put all of the right elements into the Bright Futures project to move our young students ahead early on.”

Bright Futures focuses on creating print rich environments for these students, most of who come from poor, single-parent homes according to Candler. It also features explicit instruction in oral language, phonological awareness, print awareness, and alphabet knowledge, all skills that contribute to reading success and should be acquired before entering kindergarten.

Key to Bright Futures, said Candler, is the high-quality professional development that is being developed with the help of SEDL project director Jill Slack.

According to Slack, SEDL will facilitate a minimum of 228 hours of professional development for the preK teachers each year. Slack said, “Our professional development engages the preK staff in a full range of experiences that include training, in-class modeling and support, observation and feedback, study group sessions, and college coursework.”

SEDL will also provide ongoing training and support for reading coaches who will work closely with the teachers. Program evaluation will help measure the impact of the Early Reading First program on the language and literacy skills of the preschoolers enrolled in the program, teacher knowledge and skills, and the quality of the preschool environment and classroom practices.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education Paul G. Pastorek said, “I congratulate the Madison Parish staff for their aggressive move in pursuing a rare Early Reading First grant to ensure that their youngest students build a solid foundation in literacy skills that are crucial to their academic success.”

“The emphasis on high-quality professional development tells me that they are serious about this effort and that we should see the benefits as these students begin to move through Accountability. This is great news for the students of Madison Parish,” Pastorek added.

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas with a second office located in Metairie, Louisiana. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit