Here's a press release issued Thursday by the Prichard Committee, with the added note that as a participant in this work, I'm finding it to be the most exciting education initiative I've encountered in my decades of active work on education policy.
Educators in six Kentucky school districts are part of an innovative new effort to dramatically improve students' literacy skills and their preparation for college and career.
The Literacy Design Collaborative focuses on organizing the class work that students do around reading and writing in all subject areas - a break from the traditional practice of limiting most reading instruction to English or language arts classes - and preparing them for challenging writing tasks. Teachers in Kenton, Boyle, Daviess, Fayette, Jessamine, and Rockcastle counties are developing the approach along with researchers and educators from states across the country.
The academic foundation of the work is the new standards that Kentucky has adopted, along with many other states, defining what students should know. The standards for language arts and math were drafted by nationally respected experts who used research and information on how each subject is taught in the countries with the highest academic results.
The Literacy Design Collaborative approach involves the development of components, or modules, for classroom use that specify reading and writing tasks and assignments on specific topics; "template tasks" that can be used to teach a variety of subjects to students working at different levels; and plans that set out teachers' step-by-step approach to helping students successfully prepare for and complete assignments.
In Kentucky, the collaborative work is supported by a $300,471 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, for supporting and coordinating the work in the six participating districts. The committee is a statewide citizens' organization that works to improve education at all levels. Committee associate executive director, Cindy Heine said, "The Gates Foundation is providing important new tools for teachers, supporting implementation of the newly adopted Kentucky Core Academic Standards. This kind of support was not available in the 1990s when Kentucky adopted standards for student learning and an accountability system for our schools and we believe this professional work with teachers will improve our efforts to help students become ready for success in college and career."