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Knoxville – University of Tennessee researchers have received a $2.3 million federal grant to help East Tennessee children from very poor backgrounds to stay in school and prepare for college.

The United States Department of Education grant will be distributed over the next five years, for UT-s ‘GRADKIDS’ program.

A researcher from UT’s Bureau of Education, Research and Service said the money will be used to help children in Scott and Cocke counties in East Tennessee.

“Both of those counties are rural areas,” said Dr. Loida Velazquez. “Traditionally, the students in those areas have a high incidence of dropping out of school, and very few enter higher education.”

Velazquez said they would also work to educate families, on their options for higher education for their children.

The Tennessee Department of Education is implementing special tests that schoolchildren must take, to gauge their progress through the curriculum. A UT researcher said the ‘GRADKIDS’ program will help kids prepare for those tests.

“It provides professional development for math, science, and English, that is parallel to the special ‘high-stakes’ testing, called Gateway tests,” said Terry Lashley. “The students who are participants in the’`GRADKIDS’ program will be mentored all the way through high school.”

Lashley said the program will also provide support for children of Latino migrant workers in Scott and Cocke counties, with training for teachers in language skills and cultural sensitivity.