A Celebration of Progress in the Marvell-Elaine School District

On April weeknights in the Arkansas Delta, families gathered after work and school at the local elementary and high schools. The events weren’t for the usual purposes—a basketball game, football practice or academic competition. Students, parents and guardians had joined together to enjoy fellowship, food and learning-centered fun, all to promote literacy.

Since January, the Marvell-Elaine School District (MESD) has participated in Forward’s LeARner Collective. As part of the Delta cohort, MESD’s teams have explored ideas with other teachers, principals and staff members from across the region to address challenges within their schools. They’ve benefited from personalized coaching and hands-on support to develop tailored solutions to improve student learning. First up on MESD’s target list: building a culture of literacy.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, only 35% of students in the state are currently reading at grade level. MESD is committed to raising these rates in the two counties it serves—and engaging the community to join it in the cause. With support from Forward and 2Revolutions, the idea of family-friendly literacy nights was born.

Marvell-Elaine Elementary School Principal Karmen McNutt said Fin-Tastic Tales “served as a beacon of unity, bringing families together to celebrate the richness of literacy.” By promoting accessible literature, Principal McNutt also noted the events would help “empower individuals and strengthen the fabric of the community, instilling a shared appreciation for the transformative power of words.”

As the first phase of the LeARner Collective, supported by the Walton Family Foundation, draws to a close, MESD is celebrating its progress—and looking ahead. Marvell-Elaine High School Principal Marques Collins remarked, “This process catapulted us into creating a schoolwide culture of literacy.” By unifying the community around collective goals, such as literacy, MESD is building the foundation to advance students’ learning and long-term success.