Niswonger Foundation Grant focuses on students ‘on track’ for success

Published 11:55 am Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Niswonger Foundation was awarded a Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) Community Partner Grant from the Tennessee Department of Education. The Department announced that the Niswonger Foundation will receive $9 million to support high dosage/low ratio tutoring for 18 school districts in Northeast Tennessee. “This project will have a tremendous impact on our region,” states Scott M. Niswonger, the Foundation’s Chairman and Founder. “We are proud to partner with the Tennessee Department of Education in this extraordinary effort.”
This grant will have a far-reaching impact in the region, supporting the following school districts: Bristol City, Carter County, Cocke County, Elizabethton City, Greene County, Greeneville City, Hamblen County, Hancock County, Hawkins County, Jefferson County, Johnson City, Johnson County, Kingsport City, Newport City, Rogersville City, Sullivan County, Unicoi County and Washington County. More than 6000 students will be provided this tutoring assistance over the next two years. The tutoring will be provided in both English language arts (literacy) and mathematics for grades kindergarten through eighth grade.
Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Johnson County Superintendent of Schools stated: “Johnson County Schools is honored to be a part of this work that impacts our students in such a positive way. We have seen firsthand how additional tutoring impacts our students, especially after COVID. It has been a wonderful way to help decrease the learning loss that occurred. The Niswonger Foundation is instrumental in helping all students in the First District and their impact is greatly appreciated!”
The Foundation’s expertise with tutoring began with a similarly designed program, in January 2021, in partnership with the Care Foundation of America. Project On Track was initially designed in response to increasing evidence of learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was through this initial project that we were convinced of the value of high dosage tutoring,” stated “Project On Track” Director, Dr. Debra Bentley. “High-dosage tutoring is not remedial work. Rather, it focuses on scaffolding academic content so students can access new learning, while also building upon their knowledge and skills base.” The instructional method is based on the specific needs and learning style of the individual child and strongly supported in research.
Likewise, the program can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual school districts. The tutoring staff will be selected in partnership with each district. Detailed training will ensure that every tutor is well prepared for the project. There is also a planned family communication and support component that will include materials to further support the student’s academic development at home. Bentley shared: “Project On-Track is designed on the belief that students will invest effort into their own learning if they feel that the tutor cares about their success. The close relationship built between the student and tutor through tutoring sessions motivates students to make their best effort, which often leads them to be more deeply engaged in the instructional materials and eventually experience success.”
In support of this TN ALL Corps Partner Grant, Dr. Jeff Moorhouse, Director of Kingsport City School shared: “The partnerships that Kingsport City Schools have experienced with the Niswonger Foundation have been exceptional. We are excited to see them lead the Tennessee ALL Corps Partner Grant that is centered on high dosage tutoring. We know that this will lead to great outcomes for all the children of our state.”
“When we first learned of this grant opportunity, we knew we had the expertise and that it was a natural fit for our work,” stated Dr. Nancy Dishner, Niswonger Foundation President and CEO. “We felt we had no choice but to bring this one home for our children.”
Established in 2001, the Niswonger Foundation has a mission “To create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects.” In addition to the Scholarship and Leadership program, the Niswonger Foundation supports educational programs across Tennessee, with a focus on Northeast Tennessee school districts. With the motto of “Learn-Earn-Return,” the programs of the Foundation are supported by charitable donations, grant funding and personal contributions from Scott Niswonger.

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