The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education reviewed updates to the district literacy plan Monday, ultimately deciding to postpone action until a meeting at the end of the month.
Monica Diaz, USD 457 literacy and English language learners coordinator, presented the plan to the board, following up on an initial explanation of the plan in the spring.
The plan, which she said she shared with district faculty and staff over the past several months for feedback, was similar to the one the board had considered in May. The biggest change is the funding that has since been secured for certain projects.
“This is also a living, breathing document…” Diaz said. “If there’s ever a need to make any kind of adjustments to this plan, we have the capabilities of doing that as well.”
This summer, USD 457’s literacy plan was one of eight state literacy projects to earn grants from the Literacy Network of Kansas, or LiNK, a project of the U.S. Department of Education’s Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, devoting over $3.2 million to the project over three years.
The funding will be distributed among the district’s grade levels, the biggest percentage directed at elementary schools and intermediate centers, Diaz said. Per LiNK’s instruction, for the 2018-19 academic year, about 19 percent of the grant will be allocated to early childhood programming, 40 percent to grades K-6, 20 percent to middle schools and 21 percent to the high school. For the following two years, the distribution will shift slightly, granting 17 percent to early childhood and 22 percent to middle schools, leaving the other percentages unaffected.
The grant will impact several programs directly, Diaz said. Every kindergarten classroom will be given $1,000, and preschool and daycare classrooms $500, to purchase materials for purposeful play, or playtime used to achieve an educational goal. The district was able to buy Fast ForWord, an interventionist program for students in grades K-12 that are at least one year below grade level, curriculum for newcomer classrooms in grades 2-6 and upgrades to and coaching through the Read 180 interventionist program, she said.
Diaz said the grant also will support the district’s adjusted ELL instructional framework, VOICE, which stands for vocabulary, objective, interaction, comprehension and evaluation.
Several new positions were made possible through the grant, including a bilingual teacher for a new bilingual classroom at Garfield Early Childhood Center, a community liaison and grant facilitator that will coordinate projects to increase literacy awareness in the community and a technology integrationist to manage an on-demand staff training website.
The district also will work with Kim Myers from the Southwest Plains Regional Services Center to evaluate the programs and track progress and goals,Diaz said.
Diaz said she will learn more about the evaluation process and state expectations for the literacy programs at a meeting in Wichita Wednesday for all eight programs awarded LiNK grants.
Board member Dana Nanninga asked if the plan, largely aimed at serving English as a second language and at-risk students, would adequately challenge students already thriving in literacy and expressed concerns about the plan’s proposed double block for English and language arts.
Diaz said that a committee of 50 parents, building and district administrators and educators from all age levels performed a needs assessment ahead of the grant and did not mark thriving students’ performance as an area in which the district was lacking. As a result, it was not the chief focus of the literacy plan. Regardless, she said, programs like Fast ForWord and dedicated reading and writing blocks also would be used to challenge students who are doing well.
Superintendent Steve Karlin asked for action from the board regarding the plan, but board members, several of whom still had questions about the updated plan, asked that a request for approval be placed on the agenda for their 5 p.m. Sept. 27 meeting.
All board members were present Monday except Jennifer Standley.
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