The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to award nearly $12 million in grant funding to support 56 school systems across the state as they create and implement initiatives to improve the reading and writing skills of struggling students.

The subgrants draw from a a three-year, $55.5 million Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grant Louisiana received from the federal government in October 2017. The SRCL grant aims to advance the pre-literacy, reading and writing skills of disadvantaged youth, birth through grade 12, including English learners and students with disabilities. Louisiana was one of 11 states selected to benefit from the federal grant, and the only state to receive the award three consecutive times.

"Louisiana's fourth-graders saw more growth in reading than other in the nation on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress," said State Superintendent John White. "We've made great progress, but there is still much left to do. Only half of our students enter kindergarten ready, and by fourth grade, just 36 percent read and write on grade level. This grant will accelerate our efforts by providing students and families with a strong foundation based in research and by supporting a cadre of reading and writing educator experts across the state."

The Louisiana Department of Education launched a competitive subgrant application process for school systems following the announcement of the federal award, and 145 applications were submitted. Of those submissions, 56 were selected following an independent review process.

The selected school systems will receive their specific award amounts each year for three years, pending an annual evaluation of their progress. Grant funds will be used to:

Purchase popular children's books and teacher tools needed to implement high-quality literacy curriculum aligned with the state standards;

Administer meaningful literacy assessments and use the results from those tests to better determine the needs of all students and ways to serve them;

Implement evidence-based intervention programs that accelerate student learning and help those reading below grade level get back on track; and

Provide professional development to educators to help them learn new literacy curriculum and develop effective teaching practices.

In addition to the grants awarded this week, the Department plans to award an additional $6 million in funding this summer, bringing the total amount of grant awards to nearly $18 million for the first year. The Department will host similar competitive application processes each year for the remainder of the three-year federal grant period.