By Michael Howell
Lone Rock School District officials were notified last week that the distirict had been chosen as the recipient of a grant of $314,998 per year for the next three years as part of the Montana Striving Readers Project. It all began with a $180 million award by the federal government to six states for a Comprehensive Literacy Program aimed at children from birth to grade 12. Montana’s share amounted to $7.6 million.
That money was then made available by grants through the Montana Literacy Plan and the Montana Striving Readers Project which is a program committed to dramatically improving literacy achievement for all students, especially disadvantaged students. Lone Rock was one of ten districts in the state to be awarded a share of the funds, among 29 schools and five Head Start programs.
Lone Rock Principal Tamara Lysons said that the grant funds would be split, with $218,202 going to the elementary school and the remaining $96,796 going to the middle school programs.
“The goal of our literacy program is to make sure that 100 percent of our kids are literate,” said Lysons, “and this grant money will help us reach that goal.”
Through the MT Literacy Plan, the Montana Striving Readers Project (MSRP) is committed to dramatically improving literacy achievement for all students, especially disadvantaged students.
The grants were aimed at supporting high-quality, engaging literacy instruction for children. At the same time the state’s Office of Public Instruction plans to work with grantees to decrease the percentage of students who drop out of high school and implement a data-driven decision-making process to collect, analyze, and use high-quality data to assess the effectiveness of literacy programs.
Lysons said the district is poised and prepared to use the money effectively. She said that through a series of town hall style community meetings the school and community had already honed in on a new reading curriculum as a high priority and had already selected one for next fall.
Eve Wight, Title I instructor at the school who helped write the grant application, is also very pleased. She said that Lone Rock has a strong tradition of high standards and good quality teaching. She said Lone Rock was the only school in the valley to receive the AYP award from the state for meeting standards related to the No Child Left Behind Act.
Wright said that the money will come in handy for a lot of new and valuable technology that is now proven to be beneficial in teaching literacy.
“There is solid evidence now that reading instruction can benefit from the use of new technology,” said Wight. She said the money will be used in part to purchase such things as e-readers that can download entire books. It may also go into purchase of iPads, Kindle books, smart boards, and smart projectors. Two computer laptop carts are also on the shopping list along with 50 laptop computers. Aside from all this, she said, there will also be money for training and software as well.
Lysons said that the program will be targeting struggling students, but will apply to all students with the aim of narrowing the gap between those with the most difficulties in learning and those who find it easy.