Federal award one of largest competitive grants ever received by agency
TOPEKA — Kansas received a $27 million federal grant — one of the largest competitive grants ever received by the Kansas State Department of Education — to help create comprehensive literacy programs at schools across the state, the agency announced Monday.
The Kansas Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Initiative will be funded by the award from the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative will offer districts/consortia meeting specific criteria an opportunity to apply for funds from the grant. Districts have to serve at least 5,000 students in order to apply individually. Districts that serve fewer than 5,000 students may apply as part of a consortium.
“Students can’t be the best possible version of themselves without the ability to read and comprehend text, so I can’t stress enough the importance of this grant,” said Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson. “The timing of it and the fact that it’s one of the largest competitive grants KSDE has ever been awarded is really fitting. Kansas’ new vision for education isn’t just challenging schools to up their games, it’s challenging this agency to up its game, too. I think the grant demonstrates that we’re committed to the vision. We want to provide Kansas schools with the resources and supports they need so we can lead the world in the success of each student.”
Applications will be available by mid-October and are due by Dec. 29, said Dr. Suzy Myers, project director for the initiative and an education program consultant for KSDE. Eight districts or consortia will be selected from the applications and funded at a little over $1 million per year for three years, she said. The subgrantees will be notified in January 2018.
“This award means that schools can be better equipped to build a PreK-12 plan to address the literacy needs of their students and families,” Myers said. “The award makes it possible for literacy to be baked in – in very intentional and focused ways – to the Kansas State Board of Education’s goals for students to leave the PreK-12 system with the academic, cognitive, technical and employability skills necessary to be productive and engaged members of their communities.”
Literacy plays an important part in those areas, Myers said.
“It’s important for students to have high-quality, cohesive and evidence-based literacy experiences throughout their formative years that help them to interact with their environment in productive and meaningful ways,” she said.
The purpose of the U.S. Department of Education’s Striving Readers Compressive Literacy Program will be to advance literacy skills for students from birth through grade 12, including preliteracy skills and reading and writing, with a focus on English learners and students with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
KSDE applied for the literacy program grant in July with the assistance of the KU Center on Research and Learning. The center will receive a small portion of the award during the next three years as they support and advise KSDE during the initiative.
As one of 11 states selected for funding, KSDE is required to subgrant at least 95 percent of the funds to districts/consortia across Kansas. The subgrantees must serve children from economically-disadvantaged households, English learners and students with disabilities. KSDE will be able to subgrant more than 96 percent of the funds, Myers said.
The remaining funds will pay for a full-time education program consultant and administrative assistant at KSDE to administer the program at the state level, as well as an external evaluation team to monitor its progress and impact.
The Kansas State Literacy Team, a group comprised of literacy experts from across the state and nation, will help monitor the program, Myers said.
The other states that received grants are Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Maryland and New Mexico.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Striving Readers literacy program in 2011 awarded $178 million to six states — Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to the department’s website. At $70 million, Texas received the largest award amount. These funds were made available to states over a five-year period. However, the grant that Kansas received will be distributed over a three-year period.