By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Reading proposal intrigues school districts
Placeholder Image

Carl Helm, Chase USD 401 superintendent, signed on the dotted line. John Popp, director of curriculum and instruction for Great Bend USD 428, took a wait-and-see attitude.  
Both administrators said they were interested in learning more about the Kansas Reading Roadmap, a reading initiative targeted for 45 low-income school districts in Kansas. The Kansas Reading Roadmap focuses exclusively on working with public schools to make sure all children are reading at grade level by the second semester of the third grade.
Andrew Hysell is the project director for Kansas Reading Roadmap that was launched by Governor Sam Brownback last fall. The Roadmap seeks to align proven reading models to achieve a greater impact. The Roadmap looks at both the school day and out-of-school time to identify opportunities for reading improvement.
“It’s a comprehensive approach,” Hysell said. “The school day and the teachers is just a part of it. It’s about bringing proven Kansas-based models under one roof. We’re connecting three things. There are great programs. What we’re doing is aligning that.”
• Principals and teachers are trained to use the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) program. The Great Schools Partnership will help collect and analyze data to provide some best practices for literacy.
• Families and Schools Together will coordinate a parent engagement program.
• Save the Children sponsors an After School program that has been proven to help children improve their literacy skills, according to Hysell.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families is providing the funds for the After School programs. The Kansas Technical Assistance Systems Network is training educators on the use of MTSS.
The Rural School and Community Trust (RSCT) was awarded a $9 million TANF grant to partner with Families and Schools Together (FAST) and Save the Children (SCF) to provide the after-school programs focused on rural students.
Chase is a rural-based district with 76 percent qualifying for free or reduced lunches. Each grade level averages 15 students with one teacher. Teachers use the Multi-Tiered System of Supports program.
“My school board has talked to me about Kansas Reading Roadmap,” Helm said. “We signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward. We already use MTSS and we think it will be a program that will enhance our After School program. It should enhance what we are already doing. It will be a good thing for our students.”
Popp said he needed more specific information before making a full commitment, but he signed an agreement to keep the possibility alive that USD 428 would participate, pending board approval. Current reading programs during the school day are supported by a 21st Century Learning grant.
Riley and Lincoln schools use a Success for All reading program and Park uses a District Instruction program. Eisenhower Elementary qualified, but Jefferson Elementary exceeded the low-income threshold.
“We have good reading programs in place and we do a lot of what they are offering,” Popp said. “It has to fit into what we want to do and within our teacher’s time frame. We have to consider whether it’s worth our time.”   
Popp said it was prudent to visit with building principals and teachers because some of his specific questions were not answered. He said there is no specific timetable to make a final decision.
“We need to know what is required if we partner with them,” he said. “Some of it is targeted for After School and summer school.”
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children not reading at grade level are four times less likely to graduate from high school with a diploma. Focusing resources to maximize successful readers is a truly smart investment.
“We are trying to help smaller rural school districts, which have some at-risk students not reading at grade level,” Hysell said. “We’ve had great discussions with school partners. We’re anxious to provide support to help families help their children. We want to create an alignment of good instruction.”
The University of Kansas will develop and track measurables to determine if the project is successful.
“The core components are helping struggling readers,” Hysell said. “We want them to align and work together. “