Balow: Literacy grant should help Wyoming schools

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) has received the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant. The federal funding is awarded by the United States Department of Education (USED). Year one funding for Wyoming will be $8.6 million; with continued eligibility over the next five years, the total could reach $43.3 million.

“The most important milestone in every student’s education tenure is being proficient at reading by third grade,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “This grant is going to help Wyoming tremendously in ensuring that as many children as possible reach that milestone and continue to grow. I am very excited to begin this work.”

The USED grant will be used to create a comprehensive state literacy program to advance literacy skills — including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing — for students from birth through grade 12, including students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities.

All Wyoming school districts have the opportunity to benefit. Districts that have struggled with literacy will have the opportunity to receive target training, coaching and technical assistance, and also be invited to apply for subgrants that will support the work at the district level.

“This grant really targets our state’s need to strengthen educators’ skills in teaching literacy and improving literacy outcomes for our students,” said WDE chief academic officer Shelley Hamel. “For educators, this includes an understanding of the science of reading, the ability to apply these best practices in the classroom, confidence in identifying gaps in student skills and in knowing the next steps needed to correct these gaps.”

The funding from this grant will be used to develop a comprehensive state literacy plan by the Literacy Task Force; create a statewide system of Tiered Literacy Support; and invest in high needs districts and the early childhood sites that provide services to the district area families by subgranting 95% of the funds. The support provided through this grant brings together each stage from early childhood to adult education.

“Being a reader is too important to leave to chance,” said Tami Bebee-Schwartz, an independent educational consultant from Green River. “A child’s reading skills influence all other learning, their behavior, their self-esteem, their life opportunities, and ultimately, their life choices. We have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the research and instructional practices with the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant, which means this is a phenomenal opportunity for Wyoming students and educators.”

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