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Mayor Bowser Announces $16 Million Federal Grant to Improve Literacy for Students

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded the District a $16 million grant to improve literacy. The five-year Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) grant will be used primarily to support local education agencies (LEAs) in strengthening literacy development and instruction from birth through grade 12. The grant aims to address disadvantaged children, including children living in poverty, English learners, and children with disabilities.

“This critical federal funding will help our efforts to ensure that all District students, regardless of their background, are given a start strong in literacy and the opportunity to reach their full potential throughout their education,” said Mayor Bowser.

Over the next five years, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will leverage grant funds to:

  • Support early language and literacy skills for children birth to age 5 through family-centered literacy strategies;
  • Increase the number of children reading on grade level in grade 3 through high school by providing training on evidence-based strategies for educators, school leaders and literacy coaches; and
  • Improve literacy outcomes for approximately 25,000 disadvantaged and traditionally underserved children and students through the use of effective interventions for underserved groups. OSSE will work together with community partners to reach these goals.

“The District is committed to closing the achievement gap and ensuring all of our students are prepared to succeed in school and in life. We know this success depends on our students’ ability to read well at every grade,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “Through these generous grant funds, we have the opportunity to strengthen pre-literacy foundations for young children, deepen literacy instruction K-12, and accelerate learning for those students furthest from opportunity.”

While DC continues to make steady improvements on statewide and national assessments, results show persistent gaps among student groups that must be addressed to ensure all students are on-track for success in college and careers. This grant aims to improve literacy outcomes for thousands of students from early learning through high school by providing local education agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) literacy strategies and training.

The grant requires 95% of the total funds to be disseminated to LEAs and CBOs through a competitive subgrant award process, including 40% for organizations serving grades 6-12, 40% for organizations serving grades K-5, and 15% for organizations serving children birth to age 5, with priority to organizations serving the highest needed and most underserved populations. Organizations applying for a subgrant must describe their approach to evidence-based literacy methods and instruction with the goal of improving teacher capacity and increasing student proficiency. Organizations serving young children must demonstrate how they will use subgrant awards to engage families and empower them to support literacy at home.

During the first phase of the grant, OSSE, together with community stakeholders, will conduct a needs assessment and build a comprehensive state literacy plan to identify gaps and establish guiding principles for literacy instruction that are rooted in evidence-based strategies. This state plan will serve as a template for LEAs and community-based organizations to build their own local literacy action plan, as part of the subgrant application process. OSSE will leverage various opportunities across the subgrant application and implementation cycles to offer feedback and support with the aim of continuous improvement.

A portion of the grant funds will be used to strengthen the educator workforce pipeline. A statewide literacy coaching program will lead to approximately 75 literacy coaches trained to support educators in deepening knowledge on foundational literacy—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language. In addition, pre-service literacy coursework and licensure standards will be enhanced to increase the number of educator candidates entering the teaching field prepared to implement evidence-based literacy strategies, instruction and interventions for children living in poverty, English learners, and children with disabilities.