The Office of Public Instruction announced Wednesday that Montana has received a five-year, $50 million Striving Readers Comprehensive State Development Program literacy grant through the U.S. Department of Education. The Montana Comprehensive Literacy State Development Project (MCLSDP) will award competitive subgrants to eligible districts to advance literacy skills using evidence-based practices, strategies, and interventions for all children, preschool to grade 12, with an emphasis on disadvantaged children.

“As a fifth-grade teacher for 23 years, I know how critical it is for students to have reading skills to support successful academic transitions into middle and high school,” State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said. “This new grant will allow the Office of Public Instruction to continue our positive work with local schools to ensure that all Montana students have opportunities to succeed.”

Through a district systems approach, 95 percent of grant funds will be awarded to subgrantees through a funding breakdown of 15 percent to support preschool programs, 40 percent to elementary and 40 percent to middle and high schools. Five percent of the funds will be used by the OPI for state-level activities as outlined in the grant application and determined through a needs assessment. Eligibility requirements will be released later this year and eligible districts will receive notification from the OPI with subgrant application requirements and timeline information.

The grant outcome expectations are to increase the percentage of participating 4-year-old children who achieve significant gains in oral language skills, as determined by the state assessment. To increase the percentage of participating fifth grade, eighth grade and high school students who meet or exceed proficiency on the state reading/language arts assessments (Smarter Balanced, ACT). To increase the percentage of all participating disadvantaged student groups who meet or exceed proficiency on the state reading/language arts assessments by 5 percent annually as defined in Montana’s state plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The MCLSDP proposes to award approximately 30 subgrant awards ranging from the state’s largest districts to the most rural. This project will continue the OPI’s successful efforts to promote literacy, including digital literacy, and to close academic achievement gaps among student groups through the Montana Learn initiative. Montana was previously awarded a three-year, $24 million federal literacy grant in 2017.

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