A group of educators are sitting at tables, writing in notepads

Kentucky educators and administrators from across the state came together for the Kentucky Reads to Succeed Summer Conference to learn from panelists about ways to incorporate high-quality instructional resources into their classrooms to create high-quality learning for their students. Photo by Crystal Sicard, Kentucky Department of Education, June 21, 2024

Nearly 1,500 Kentucky K–12 public educators and administrators attended the Kentucky Reads to Succeed Summer Conference at the Central Bank Center in Lexington on June 20 to learn more about evidence-based literacy practices for meeting the diverse needs of student readers.

The conference was hosted by the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Office of Teaching and Learning, which included consultants from KDE and other partners in education. Sessions were designed for elementary and secondary educators and administrators and focused on evidence-based instructional shifts for literacy, the benefits of structured literacy, the importance of high-quality instructional resources and available resources for implementing the Read to Succeed Act.

“We are working to ensure educators across the state are equipped and empowered with the skills and resources they need to best support their students,” said KDE Chief Academic Officer Micki Ray.

“My hope for everyone is that when you leave today you will be inspired and further equipped with the knowledge, evidence-based strategies, and action steps needed to support students within your power of influence in becoming independent readers who can decode and comprehend rich, grade-level text,” Ray said during her welcoming address. “We feel privileged to partner with you, to support you and to continue lifelong learning with you. We are committed to our literacy efforts, and we can’t wait to celebrate and spotlight the good work you are doing across the Commonwealth on behalf of students.”

Senate Bill 9 (2022), also known as the Read to Succeed Act, specified KDE’s role in assisting local school districts with reading instructional practices, assessment and intervention.

To support this goal, KDE created a partnership called the Kentucky Reading Academies, which brings the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) professional learning opportunities to educators across the Commonwealth. 

 “We are deeply committed to supporting and equipping our educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to empower our students with evidence-based literacy practices and build proficient readers,” said Christie Biggerstaff, KDE director of early literacy. “We believe that literacy is the cornerstone of academic success and lifelong learning. By investing in our teachers, we are investing in the bright futures of our students and the prosperity of our great state.”

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 each young reader. ​More information can be found on the Kentucky Reading Academies website.

“A child’s ability to read is a critical predictor of both lifelong and educational success; this is why we need to continue working together to raise the bar in literacy and mathematics education across the state,” said Interim Commissioner of Education Robin Fields Kinney.

Keynote speaker Emily Hanford, an education journalist, started the conference by sharing her story. Hanford is known for her work as a journalist and as the host of the Sold a Story podcast. Her podcast is the second-most-shared show on Apple Podcasts in 2023 and one of Time Magazine’s top three podcasts of the year.

Sessions during the conference included a variety of topics from learning about structured literacy practices and implementing them in the classroom to when and how to create a reading improvement plan, the power of knowledge-building high-quality instructional resources and key actions for meeting the needs of all K–3 readers and writers. Kenton, Wayne and Jefferson counties also shared their stories as part of the “Voices from the Field.” 

The conference was free to attend and was available to all K-12 public school educators. Ray said the goal is to make this conference an annual event.