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Commissioner, State Board announce $15 million to address early literacy

Posted: Jul 14, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and Kansas State Board of Education members on Wednesday, July 14, announced $15 million in funding to address early literacy.

“This is a historic day,” Watson said. “Early literacy is an effort the State Board has been committed to for many years because it is critical to long-term academic success. With the learning loss created by the pandemic and the federal funds made available to address this loss, this is the right opportunity at the right time.”

The $15 million is set aside from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III fund. A large portion of the money set aside from ESSER III must be used to address learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $15 million will be spread out over a three-year initiative. The initiative will train educators in the science of reading through the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS©) program, said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander.

LETRS© is a flexible professional learning solution that provides teachers with the research, depth of knowledge and skills to make a significant improvement in the literacy and language development of students. LETRS© helps educators identify, problem-solve and provide intervention for reading deficits before students suffer from reading failure.

“LETRS© is professional learning, not curriculum,” Watson emphasized.

This initiative will focus on training pre-K through third-grade teachers, English as a second language educators, reading specialists and special education teachers across the state.

“This is earth changing,” said Jim Porter, chair of the State Board. “It will help every struggling reader.”

Michelle Dombrosky, who represents District 3 on the State Board, agreed.

 “It is very exciting that every teacher in the state will be exposed to the science of reading,” she said. “It will enhance and support any ongoing efforts to implement structured literacy.”

Educators will receive training through a variety of models – one-on-one specialized training; training using the train-the-trainer method; and training utilizing staff members from service centers across the state. Professors at higher education teacher preparation programs also will receive training to better prepare future educators in the science of reading.

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