United Way of Chattanooga

Help children and youth achieve their full potential

Why focus on education?

It takes a whole community to support our children from birth to work! Research shows that children who enter kindergarten with the skills they need for academic success are more likely to stay on track, read proficiently by third grade, graduate high school and become engaged, productive citizens.

Why is it important?

  • 20% of children in Hamilton County are at risk of not starting school with the skills they need to succeed.
  • Only 48% of third-grade children in Hamilton County Public Schools can read at grade level (TDOE, 2012).
  • In 2012, 490 Hamilton County students dropped out of school before graduation. Nationally, 75% of crime is committed by those without a high school education.

A strong community is one where children have every available chance to grow into successful, productive adults. That benefits everyone! By focusing on Education, United Way envisions a community where all children:

  • Start school with the skills they need for success
  • Have access to quality learning supports and environments
  • Achieve academic success and graduate high school

Doing more than any single organization can do alone

United Way is partnering with a variety of organizations from business, education, government and nonprofit sectors to help all children and youth in our community reach their full potential. Results of our partnerships have been impressive. 


In 2013, there were 17,644 children enrolled in Imagination Library in the 5 county area. This is 57% of the eligible population (children birth to five) in the five-county area and 61% of eligible children in Hamilton County.

There is a strong correlation between the number of books in the home and children’s literacy skills. Therefore, Project Ready for School (PRFS) has worked to increase access to books for children in our community in part through continued enrollment of children in Imagination Library.


In 2013, 16.3% of the 17,644 children enrolled in Imagination Library completed an ASQ screening through PRFS. Since PRFS began, a total of 13,311 children have completed an ASQ screening.

Research has shown that many children who enter school with insufficient skills also have developmental delays. To assist in identification of potential developmental difficulties, PRFS provides a free developmental screening, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).



All preschoolers need on-going efforts to build early literacy skills, and research demonstrates that learning to read is a critical aspect of later school success.

At the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, 93% of the ECI center’s kindergarten-eligible children, who completed a Get Ready to Read Screening-Revised, had average or above average, age-appropriate, literacy skills.

Results in Education

Early Learning Results - 2013

GOAL  AREA: Age-Appropriate Developmental Skills
  • 17,644 children (57% of children 0-5) received a book a month in the 5 County Region; 12,383 children (61% of children 0-5) in Hamilton County.
  • 88.7% of children screened are maintaining age-appropriate developmental skills as measured by the Ages & Stages Questionaire (ASQ).
GOAL  AREA: Quality Education Programs
  • The Early Childhood Institute (ECI) trained & monitored 10 preschool programs in continuous improvement, quality learning environments and instruction. A total of 112 teachers were trained through ECI in 2013 & assessed two times a year for quality performance.
  • 1,130 children were served by 10 ECI participating preschool programs.
  • 93% of children transitioning into kindergarten in Spring 2013 had developmentally appropriate literacy skills.
GOAL  AREA: Parent Engagement and Education
  • 2,876 parents are monitoring their child’s developmental skills through Learning Checkup. 281 children were identified as needing follow up contact to see if additional assessments were needed (as indicated by scores below the age specific cut off scores on one or more areas of the ASQ-3). 62 families (22%) were successfully contacted regarding their child’s scores and provided with additional resources.
  • A new partnership now provides immediate follow up services to families. Children are referred to Speech and Hearing for further developmental assessment based upon parent concerns and Learning Checkup scores. A parent trainer then follows up with each parent to ensure the child’s need for additional service is addressed.

How You Can Help 

To reach our goals in education, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect people and communities to their schools.  It takes all of us working together to make progess!

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