Led by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Excel By Eight in Independence County is building on existing educational initiatives with its intentional focus on children from birth to age eight. As the group moved through its planning process, it identified five areas of focus: food insecurity, child care availability, kindergarten readiness, substance use, and poverty.

In addition to the above areas, the four school districts utilized the E8 platform to collaborate on a Comprehensive State Development Grant designed to help create a school and community culture aligned with the science of reading. Each district submitted a proposal, but narrowed down collective objectives for the community engagement aspect to strengthen their chances to receive the award. Each district received the grant and will work together to provide access to developmentally-appropriate books for students who have aged out of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. They will also engage the business community to help develop strategies that tie literacy and executive functions to workforce readiness for older youth.