JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Duval County education leaders say there's still work to do when it comes to literacy.
An organization is launching in the River City to help bridge the gaps.
"God gave this idea to me in 1986," said Optimus Literacy Institute of America CEO Dr. Kathi Vaughn-Malpress.
That idea is finally coming to fruition for Dr. Kathi Vaughn-Malpress.
"At board meetings, we like to call it, we've been crawling but now it's time to stand up," she said.
They're standing up against illiteracy on the First Coast. At an education symposium today, Vaughn-Malpress announced the launch of the Optimus Literacy Institute of America.
It will serve as a supplemental remediation program for local schools.
"That teaches reading, writing and arithmetic. Our focus is basically the basics, basic literacy skills," said Vaughn-Malpress.
They are skills that educators say are lacking for some students. They see plenty who are reading or writing well below their expected levels.
"The stakes have never been higher than they are today," said educator Priscilla Berry.
The latest numbers from Duval County Public Schools show some progress. According to recent data on the DCPS website, the number of students with reading and math gains are up, but improvement was still needed for reading and writing.
Then there's the graduation rate. It's up 5% in the last two years, but city of Jacksonville Education Commissioner Donnie Horner says there's still work to do.
"Anytime you have one in three that don't graduate, the root cause is usually comprehension and retention of information," said Horner.
Horner believes Optimus is a great way to help turn things around.
"It's a perfect example of a private company doing a public good for our kids, teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to kids who need it in a way we can measure success," said Horner.
"There has to be a system in place and this institute I think is a first step in that," said Berry.
Optimus, a non-profit organization, will offer help to students for free. Dr. Vaughn-Malpress says it's already making a difference.
"Our gains have been positive so we know that it does work," she said.
If you'd like more information about the Optimus Literacy Institute of America, they can be reached at 904-607-9600.
First Coast News