Fort Worth

Fort Worth superintendent puts more focus on childhood literacy

Superintendent Kent Scribner is putting more focus on childhood literacy.
Superintendent Kent Scribner is putting more focus on childhood literacy. Star-Telegram archives

Superintendent Kent Scribner emphasized the need for the community to focus on helping more students read at grade level Thursday during the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual State of Education luncheon.

“Complex problems require complex solutions,” Scribner told business, education, community and city leaders during the event, held at Fort Worth’s Cendara Center.

The luncheon focuses on how education and business communities rely on each other.

Said Mark Nurdin, CEO of Fort Worth Region Bank of Texas and chairman of the Fort Worth chamber: “Education is an economic issue, it is a business issue, and the chamber cares deeply about the quality of education of our young people.”

Nurdin said Scribner’s efforts to improve and build schools are taking shape.

Scribner’s address was the first State of Education report presented to businesses leaders after his first year at the helm of the Fort Worth school district. His report included a snapshot of the district’s student diversity, an update on construction and details on his plans to improve childhood literacy and develop stronger teachers.

Scribner said that of district’s 87,000 students, about 39,000 come from families whose primary language is Spanish. That demographic prompted the district to improve parent engagement and outreach in the Hispanic community.

“We are rich in diversity,” he said.

Scribner said two new elementary schools — Westpark and Washington Heights — opened recently. He said work is underway on a renovation of I.M. Terrell to create a specialized academies for arts and science/technology.

The event Thursday comes as Scribner has been putting the focus on literacy. He and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price recently announced a communitywide effort to help more students read.

Scribner wants 100 percent of Fort Worth third-graders reading at grade level by 2025. Only 3 in 10 do so now.

“Third grade is a turning point in a child’s academic career,” Scribner said, stressing that strong readers become good learners, who are the foundation of a solid workforce.

The Fort Worth literacy project will be driven by data and depend heavily on contributions from business, civic, education and nonprofit entities to map out where academic successes in the district can be replicated at struggling schools.

Matt Rose, executive chairman of Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway, will head the foundation being created to oversee the initiative. Kristin Sullivan, a former Star-Telegram reporter and editor and most recently associate vice president for communications at the University of Texas at Arlington, will be the project’s executive director.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1