Superintendents Webcast graphic 4.18.23

Officials with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provided an update on the department’s efforts to bolster literacy education during the Superintendents Webcast on Aug. 15.

KDE is offering educators the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) professional learning through the Kentucky Reading Academies. This comprehensive, no-cost professional learning opportunity is open to all K-5 public school educators. The partnership is supported through American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding.

Following the first cohort of training that included more than 1,800 educators, KDE Director of Early Literacy Christie Biggerstaff said about 2,300 people already have signed up for the second cohort. Registration ends Aug. 31 and more information on how to register for either the LETRS for Educators or LETRS for Administrators courses can be found on the Kentucky Reading Academies webpage.

Through LETRS, teachers gain essential knowledge to master the fundamentals of literacy instruction required to transform student learning and create a more vibrant experience for every young reader. This course of study was chosen because of its demonstrated success on a national scale in bringing significant increases in literacy achievement. 

Biggerstaff shared the results of a survey given to the first cohort of LETRS trainees, and out of the more than 400 people who responded:

  • 95% said they have learned new and relevant information; and
  • 93% said the information they earned helped them better meet the diverse learning needs of their students.

“We had multiple written testimonies and a lot of classroom assessment data that is shared; student progress stories, just a lot of wonderful results happening from the learning in LETRS,” said Biggerstaff.

Thomas Woods Tucker, KDE deputy commissioner and chief equity officer in the Office of Teaching and Learning, said while there has been a positive trend in literacy rates over the past two decades, the rates deteriorated during the pandemic.

“That’s across this country,” said Tucker. “It’s not Kentucky. It’s not the Southeast region. It’s across the United States.”

LETRS professional learning, Tucker said, is something to really believe in as KDE attempts to improve literacy in the Commonwealth.

“We really believe it’s going to change the trajectory of this and we can only do this, superintendents, with your help and the support of our teachers and our community members,” he said.

While registration for the second cohort closes Aug. 31, there will be a third cohort next year.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding

Robin Kinney, associate commissioner in the KDE Office of Finance and Operations, gave superintendents an update on where districts stand in spending the funds in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund.

ESSER funds provided school districts with emergency relief to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools. ESSER funding supports the safe and sustained return to in-person learning and expands equity by supporting students who were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant period for the second round of ESSER funds, ESSER II, ends Sept. 30 and all reimbursement requests are due to KDE no later than Nov. 17. Kinney said through June, 87% of ESSER II allocations have been reimbursed, while 75% of ESSER II local education agency state set-aside funds have been reimbursed.

Kinney said nine districts have indicated an interest in an ESSER II liquidation extension, which will be limited to obligations for new construction, facility renovations and bus purchases which are needed to respond, prevent or prepare for COVID-19:

  • Adair County;
  • Campbellsville Independent;
  • Carter County;
  • Caverna Independent;
  • Christian County;
  • Clay County;
  • Corbin Independent;
  • Harlan County; and
  • Russell County.

The grant period for the third and final pool of ESSER funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARP ESSER, ends Sept. 30, 2024, and all reimbursement requests are due to KDE by Nov. 15, 2024. Kinney said districts have been reimbursed for 50% of ARP ESSER allocations and reminded districts they must spend at least 20% of their ARP ESSER allocation on learning loss assistance.

In other news:

  • KDE is conducting its routine review of the Kentucky Academic Standards for Health and Kentucky Academic Standards for Physical Education. A public comment survey will be open from Aug. 28-Sept. 29 and more information will be coming through a KDE press release.

The next Superintendents Webcast is scheduled for Sept. 12.