SOUTHERN INDIANA — For educators in southern Indiana, news of Indiana’s $111 million investment in early literacy is welcome news, although it’s still unclear how exactly it would be implemented at the state level. local
Last week, Governor Eric Holcomb and Education Secretary Katie Jenner announced the investment, which is the largest financial investment the state has ever made for literacy development. Funding comes from $26 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding allocated to the Indiana Department of Education and $85 million from the Lilly Endowment.
The investment will support the deployment of instructional coaches in schools, grants of up to $1,200 for teachers to participate in professional development, student-focused interventions and the creation of an IDOE literacy center. The program will focus on teaching strategies related to the Science of Reading, a body of research related to how children learn to read.
In addition to a $60 million grant that directly supports K-12 education, the Lilly Endowment will provide up to $25 million for colleges and universities to support Science of Reading methods in undergraduate programs for the preparation of primary school teachers.
Tony Duffy, assistant superintendent of elementary education at New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said NAFCS has similar literacy programming in its schools, including seven elementary school literacy coaches and one high school
It’s unclear what the funding might look like locally, but the district will “wait and see” what the next steps are for the $111 million, he said. If the district were to benefit from the investment, it could complement the literacy development support already in place in NAFCS through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.
“I think it’s all positive, especially with COVID and the learning loss piece,” Duffy said. “Anytime we can get the state and Lilly to also work together to support education, that’s a positive for all of us. We’ve put a lot of ESSER money into the learning loss piece with support and extra help, and I think that will be helpful as well.”
Greater Clark County Schools Assistant Superintendent Kim Hartlage said that while the details of the funding are still unclear, she is “excited to hear about this opportunity.”
Greater Clark has already been using ESSER funding to expand the development of the science of reading for teachers, which it describes as the “body of research to support foundational skills as children learn to read.” . The district is using a science-based multisensory literacy method called the Orton-Gillingham approach.
Most classroom teachers don’t have that kind of training coming out of college, Hartlage said. If the district is able to receive funding from the state’s investment in literacy, it hopes to expand the developmental opportunities and effective interventions needed for struggling students.
“We hope that we can really build the capacity of our teachers, and when kids are struggling, it will help us know how we can effectively assess the areas of difficulty that are preventing them from being successful readers and writers,” she said.
IUS Dean of Education Faye Camahalan said she was “delighted” to learn of the investment from the state and the Lilly Endowment.
“I would say the need is really to help teachers get more support so they can help more students,” he said. “Also, coming from a teacher training institution, we also need help preparing future teachers on how to teach,” he said. “I see this investment as something very encouraging.”
The funding could help encourage high school students to pursue K-12 teaching careers, Camahalan said. It would also help more students and educators pursue reading certification programs and study the Reading Science curriculum.
IUS already has projects that address literacy in local K-12 schools, including reading clinics and training to teach writing to students. If the IUS received funding, it could help expand the school’s efforts.
Camahalan is curious to see what the funding process and criteria would be.
“What intrigues me is what it will look like when they disseminate the funding and when they ask institutions to apply for the funding,” he said.
Hartlage said the inconsistency caused by the pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges for young students learning to read, as many have been in and out of the classroom in recent years.
“Really, kids haven’t gotten the education they need or deserve because of the lack of consistency,” he said. “Now, when we have them in the classroom, we can really focus on the tools to give them optimal opportunities to succeed, starting with literacy.”
Duffy said learning loss has been a particular problem for younger students in kindergarten and first grade who struggled with virtual school during the pandemic, as those years involve the “building blocks” of reading. .
He notes that IREAD test scores have been lower since the pandemic, although this year’s scores were up slightly from last year.
“We believe we have many strong interventions, but we will continue to work hard to improve next year’s results,” he said.
Barb Hoover, NAFCS Literacy and Title I coordinator, said the district has been able to provide additional support for struggling readers through ESSER funding, including after-school tutoring, between-session support and school d summer
She is particularly pleased to see the State’s investment in teachers and professional training.
“The more resources we have, the better off we’ll be,” he said.