LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education are excited to announce that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Arkansas a five-year grant totaling $38 million to improve literacy in the state. The state received the maximum amount allowed under the grant.
ADE has received an initial $1.1 million to begin implementing the grant this year. Ninety-five percent of the funds will be subgranted to districts and communities to improve literacy outcomes for students in preschool through twelfth grade.
“It is rewarding to know that the U.S. Department of Education sees the hard work and efforts currently underway here in Arkansas to improve reading instruction,” Hutchinson said. “Since launching the statewide reading initiative in 2017, reading instruction has improved, K-12 and higher education partnerships have strengthened, and a culture of reading continues to expand across the state. This literacy grant will expand the successes of our current programs and provide new resources to help ensure all of our students are prepared for the future.”
With the grant, ADE will implement the Arkansas Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program. The program has four main objectives (listed below), with an emphasis on assisting disadvantaged children (which includes children living in poverty, English learners, and children with disabilities).
- Strengthen Arkansas literacy instruction.
- Provide Arkansas children access to educational excellence.
- Foster collaboration among various stakeholders.
- Build a culture of reading.
“We are excited about the numerous opportunities this very large grant will bring to Arkansas,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “It will allow us to capitalize and build upon the success of our reading initiative and better serve our students. In order for us to lead the nation in student-focused education, we must continue our efforts of collaboration with stakeholder partners, increase access to books in homes, and provide excellent reading instruction. This grant will help not only ADE continue these efforts, it will give schools the opportunity to utilize funds to strengthen their programs as well.”
ADE and Hutchinson launched the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence, or R.I.S.E. Arkansas, in January 2017. The program’s main objectives are to strengthen reading instruction, create community collaboration, and build a culture of reading. Since the campaign’s launch, more than 6,000 teachers (kindergarten through sixth grade) have been trained through R.I.S.E. Academies, and more than 3,000 K-12 teachers have received intensive training about the Science of Reading.
To meet the grant’s objectives, ADE will engage families in reading by providing access to books through a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, as well as promote reading activities statewide. ADE will expand the development of R.I.S.E. Arkansas activities on the pre-K level and will continue to offer high-quality professional development to support reading instruction throughout all grade levels. A critical component of the grant is creating a network of support for districts by leveraging the roles of higher education institutions to support the Science of Reading implementation at the school level.
In addition, competitive grants will be offered to schools and districts to assist with evidence-based literacy instruction, expand collaborative partnerships, and remove barriers to allow students to access reading intervention during the school day. National experts also will be utilized to provide feedback and professional development opportunities for literacy specialists.
To learn more about R.I.S.E. Arkansas, visit http://www.risearkansas.org.