ELYRIA — A more than $1 million state grant from the Ohio Department of Education is coming to Elyria to help the district improve literacy among students, especially those beyond the threshold of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Since the 2013-14 school year, districts across the state turned their attention to the mandate that aims to identify students from kindergarten through third grade who are behind in reading. Elyria will use funding from Ohio’s Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant to expand literacy programs for fourth- through ninth-graders.
“In a perfect world, students by fourth grade are strategic and fluent readers, but we know that is not always the case,” said Ann Schloss, Elyria’s associate superintendent. “…There has been so much focus on Pre-K to third grade with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, but we have always known there are great needs at the middle years to help bring students up and keep them at grade level.”
Schloss said the Elyria will receive $1,054,144. The bulk, roughly $839,605, is earmarked for middle school grades with $127,738 for high school programs and $86,801 going toward literacy at the elementary level. It is a three-year grant with a three-prong approach in Elyria: upgrade literacy instruction across the board in fourth through ninth grades; expand Read 180, an intervention reading program geared toward students in fourth through ninth grades who are two or more grade levels behind; and implement the Shared Inquiry teaching method through the Great Books Foundation, which helps teachers increase student skills in reading comprehension, exploration and inquiry.
Ohio’s Department of Education says the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant especially aims to boost literacy for more students who live in poverty, have disabilities, or are identified as English learners or struggling readers.
The grants range from about $22,000 for Mansfield schools to $1.2 million each for several recipients.
The applicants receiving the largest grants include educational service centers in Cuyahoga, Mahoning, Richland and Trumbull counties that serve multiple schools districts, and the Cleveland-based Center for Families and Children, which offers early learning programs. Individual districts getting at least $1 million include Columbus, Elyria, Hillsboro, Mt. Healthy, New Lexington, Reynoldsburg, Strongsville, Toledo and West Clermont in addition to Elyria.
Schloss said a lot of the grant covers job-embedded professional development for teachers, allowing the district to hire three new educators who will train and coach teachers on the various teaching methods. The educators will work one each in the district’s three middle schools and be directly available to teachers in the classrooms.
“We are encouraging teachers to create an even greater culture of literacy in the middle grades.” Schloss said.
Amy Keir, Elyria’s teaching and learning coordinator, said the grant helps the district further it’s continuum of intervention and enrichment for students in English language arts.
“We know the primary programs are really great at intervention and challenging more able students,” Keir said. “But we also know students in the middle grades are sometimes not with us long enough to see the programs through or they come to us in the middle grades behind. We want to address literacy in the same fashion that we have implemented in the lower grades.”
The last state report card for Elyria bears out just how much work the district has to do to reach proficiency thresholds in English language arts for students tested at the third- through eighth- grade levels. Elyria did not meet any of the indictors in the English language arts assessment area for students who took and passed the state test, which the state sets a passage rate of 80 percent.
The results from 2016-17 show a 52 percent passage rate in third grade. The passage rate was the highest that year in fifth grade with a 62 percent. The passage rate dipped to a low of 39 percent that year for eighth-grade students.
This is the second year the state has administered the grant. Last fall, Ohio awarded $35 million to districts that worked to implement classroom programs that increase literacy achievement.
“Reading is the foundational skill that ultimately allows us to learn more, and through this application process, we were able to see the great work happening in Ohio’s schools,” said Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction. “These Striving Readers grants put crucial resources directly into classrooms across the state, and we’re excited to work with awardees to improve outcomes for Ohio’s most vulnerable children.”
Elyria was the only public district to receive funds in this round of funding. Horizon Education Centers received $187,000 for its preschool program.