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Atlanta Speech School Awarded $3.5M Grant from Cox Foundation

Grant to help create at the Buckhead school the Cox Online Campus, a research-based professional development resource for Georgia's early childhood educators.

Courtesy Atlanta Speech School Facebook page
Courtesy Atlanta Speech School Facebook page
Patch Staff Report

The James M. Cox Foundation has awarded a $3.5 million grant to Buckhead's Atlanta Speech School to create the Cox Online Campus, a research-based professional development resource for Georgia's early childhood educators.

The Cox Online Campus will be accessible to teachers statewide in early August and include practical strategies to stimulate vocabulary, critical thinking, imagination and problem solving. Users will also have access to live e-coaches from the Atlanta Speech School's staff to answer questions, share experiences and provide feedback.

The campus is comprised of training modules with video footage drawing from the Cox Pre-K classroom at the Charles R. Drew Charter School, which serves as a research and design site for the training program. When it opened in 2000, Drew Charter School ranked last among Atlanta Public Schools. Thanks to the research and investment in early childhood education, Drew is now the top ranked elementary academy in Atlanta.*

The Cox Online Campus will remove physical and financial barriers to make these successful practices available to teachers of children from birth to eight years of age.

"Our goal is to make it easy for teachers to turn this research into immediate action," Cox Enterprises Chairman Jim Kennedy said in a press release. "We are pleased to join other philanthropic donors, government leaders and provider agencies supporting this effort. This grant will help the Atlanta Speech School take this model program and its results statewide."

According to national research, children born into low-income families arrive in kindergarten having heard 30 million fewer words within the first four years of life than their peers from more financially-stable homes. This lack of early exposure to language puts these children at a disadvantage, impacting development of vocabulary and reading skills once in school. Research and teacher training through the Cox Online Campus will help narrow the word gap and put all Georgia students on a path toward grade level reading by third grade.

"We are so grateful for this investment by the Cox Foundation to help better the lives of Georgia's young children, stated Atlanta Speech School Executive Director Comer Yates in the release. The Atlanta Speech School's Rollins Center synthesizes the work of the nation's leading literacy experts to put research into action to address the illiteracy crisis confronting our state and our children. Only 32 percent of them currently read on grade level based on national standards. This gift is truly transformational to our work. This generous grant allows us to continue our commitment to help build the capacity of all teachers of young children in Georgia, and to have every student on a path to grade level reading by 2020."

The James M. Cox Foundation has invested more than $8 million in recent years to promote teacher quality and improve early childhood education in Metro Atlanta, including Pre-K grants for Drew Charter School and Teach for America-Metro Atlanta.  Through a grant to Reach Out and Read, the Foundation provided new books to 35,000 underserved children. The Foundation also provided technology learning tools through a grant to the Fugees.

*Rating based on the State of Georgia's 2013 College and Career Ready Performance Index

Cox Enterprises, Inc. provided information for this report that was edited for publication.

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