Closing the COVID reading gap to ensure Success for All

Teachers are shown participating in a summer training on phonics.

School has only been out a few weeks, but Knox County teachers are already trading in sunny days to prepare for the new year ahead.

One of the ways that the Knox County Public Schools is closing the gap caused by COVID-19 is by providing a strong foundation in phonics.  In the past year, KCPS has used a program from the Success for All Foundation called FastTrack Phonics.  When the current school year came to a close, teachers received additional training and support in their implementation of the program for the year to come.

The district’s director of elementary education, Sheila Terrell, explained that this is providing another tool for students and teachers to be successful.

“Students in first and second grades missed the importance of in-person reading by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters,” said Terrell referring to virtual and hybrid learning that took place.

Terrell explained that the FastTrack Phonics lessons are varied for age-appropriate groups and are flexible enough to target individual student needs for intervention.

Video clips are part of the program, allowing for whole class or individual student viewing.  The clips are called the Animated Alphabet. These video clips help students remember the sounds and shapes of the letters of the alphabet.  Here is an example of the letter f:


Teachers and school leaders agree that the program’s narrow focus and target on phonemic awareness has already been successful in the past year.  Through the additional training and support, teachers are learning new additions to the program and receiving coaching on how to make it engaging in their classroom.

“Letter sounds and phonemic awareness are the foundation of reading,” said Terrell.  “A student grows from that by recognizing words and using them fluently as part of language and vocabulary development.”