Education officials announce $15M program to help address COVID-19 ‘learning loss’

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FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2014, file photo, a student prepares to leave the Enterprise Attendance Center school southeast of Brookhaven Miss. The federal government has decided to delay changing the way it determines funding for rural education after a bipartisan group of lawmakers said the move would hurt hundreds of schools. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and Kansas State Board of Education members on Wednesday announced $15 million in funding to address early literacy.

“This is a historic day. Early literacy is an effort the State Board has been committed to for many years because it is critical to long-term academic success. With the learning loss created by the pandemic and the federal funds made available to address this loss, this is the right opportunity at the right time.”

RANDY WATSON, KANSAS COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

The $15 million is set aside from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III fund. A large portion of the money set aside from ESSER III must be used to address learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you talk to teachers, they’re like, if I just had better training to work with these kids, it most likely will save me frustration not only with myself but with the students, because we’re just better supporting students in the area of reading,” said Brad Neuenswander, the state’s Deputy Commissioner of Education.

The $15 million will be spread out over a three-year initiative. The money will go to an out-of-state company, Voyager Sopris Literacy, which will send people in to train teachers across the state. The initiative will train educators in the science of reading through the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS©) program.

The program teachers with the research, depth of knowledge and skills to make a significant improvement in the literacy and language development of students. It also helps educators identify, problem-solve and provide intervention for reading deficits before students suffer from reading failure.

This initiative will focus on training pre-K through third-grade teachers, English as a second language educators, reading specialists and special education teachers across the state.

Educators will receive training through a variety of models – one-on-one specialized training; training using the train-the-trainer method; and training utilizing staff members from service centers across the state. Professors at higher education teacher preparation programs also will receive training to better prepare future educators in the science of reading.

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