Several of the 49 winning proposals for federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grants focus on early literacy. Among them is the Bay State Reading Institute. Its Data Driven School Transformation Partnership (DSTP) “is a partnership between the Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI) and 12 high-needs low-performing Massachusetts elementary schools,” according to a description on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. “The DSTP will implement whole-school transformation that improves student gains through the assessment, analysis and use of student achievement data.”
Participating schools are located in Brockton, Fitchburg, Gloucester, Malden, Pittsfield, Revere and Taunton. The goal? “More than 6,800 students will improve their literacy by 20% each year as measured by a net percent at benchmark on DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) assessments.” Bay State Reading Chairman Edward Moscovitch describes the institute in “Teachers are not to blame” in the current issue of CommonWealth magazine.
The institute requested $5 million for a development grant, designed to test promising ideas. Validation grants are designed to test the effectiveness of promising existing programs, and scale-up grants aim to spread ideas that have been shown to be effective. Other winning i3 projects with an early literacy component include a scale-up proposal for Reading Recovery from Ohio State University to train more teachers to work with first graders in high-needs schools; a validation grant for Project READS, a summer reading program in North Carolina run by Asst. Prof. James Kim of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; a development grant for the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project, a K-3 literacy intervention run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee that will involve schools, home and the community; and a validation grant for the Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadelphia, an intense professional development program that aims to help children become proficient readers by the end of third grade.
Meanwhile, Laura Bornfreund of the New America Foundation raised questions last week on the Early Ed Watch blog about how early learning fared in the competition. In a story announcing the grants, The New York Times reports that the U.S. Department of Education “heard complaints that as the innovation competition, Race to the Top, and other programs have unfolded, little attention has been given to early childhood education…. Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for early learning initiatives, said that although two groups that focus on early childhood won $5 million awards, she saw little else that advanced pre-kindergarten.” The department denies it gave early learning short shrift, saying more than one-quarter of winning proposals have early learning components, according to the Times and EarlyStories, a blog of Columbia University’s Hechinger Report.