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Media Release: Mills Administration Announces $10 Million in Literacy Grants for Maine Schools 

Grants Support the Development, Expansion, and Enhancement of Evidence-Based Core Literacy Instruction and Targeted Interventions for Maine Students 

The Mills Administration announced a $10 million literacy grant opportunity for schools to support the development, expansion, and enhancement of evidence-based core literacy instruction and targeted interventions for Maine students. These literacy grants through the Maine Department of Education (DOE) are intended to build the capacity of year-long, core literacy instruction for all students and support core literacy instructional components, including phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Grant funds can be used by schools to compensate educators for participating in evidence-based literacy professional learning opportunities and internal instruction and program review processes, for professional learning opportunities on evidence-based literacy practices, to train instructional coaches, and to purchase evidence-based literacy materials.

       “Literacy is a foundational skill that enables students to thrive in school, work, life, and as citizens in our democracy. This investment in literacy will help schools and educators provide all students in Maine with evidence-based core literacy instruction and interventions. It’s an investment in the future of our state,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin.  

The grants were developed following the work by a Maine DOE workgroup of literacy specialists to analyze early literacy programs in Maine to understand better which assessment measures, programs, resources, evidence-based practices, and educator supports have yielded strong student growth. The Maine DOE workgroup created recommendations, which were provided to the Maine Legislature in December 2022. This $10 million grant initiative was designed out of LD 1526, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, to increase student reading proficiency in Maine.

       “The literacy grant the DOE is providing is giving schools the opportunity to participate in the much needed and requested professional development around the science of reading. These funds will allow us to provide vital training in this area and the opportunity to purchase classroom materials for literacy instruction. In RSU14, this means we can train more staff than we budgeted for using local funds. We are grateful to have this opportunity to support our staff,” said Christine Hesler, Director of Curriculum for RSU14.

       “The Maine DOE literacy grant is a great opportunity for many districts to reach their goal of all students becoming readers. Through providing professional development, purchasing additional resources and materials that are focused on research-based literacy strategies, this goal is attainable.  These funds will supplement the financial investment districts already commit to literacy instruction,” said Deb McIntyre, Executive Director of the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association.

The grants also build off extensive efforts by the Mills Administration to strengthen child literacy skills in Maine, including investing $10 million through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to create and expand pre-k programs across Maine. In 2022, the Maine DOE released, Literacy for ME 2.0, a revamped state literacy plan grounded in research-based literacy practices and organized around key components central to building comprehensive literacy programs.

Recognizing the vital importance of foundational literacy development and in response to school system inquiries related to early literacy program development, the Maine DOE and a team of Maine educators and educational partners, developed guidance to support School Administrative Units in designing and implementing systematic and explicit early literacy instruction. This guidance is designed as a supportive tool for early elementary educators, administrators, and literacy leadership teams to reflect on current practices and to potentially adjust educational design to support high-quality and evidence-based early literacy learning for all PreK to Grade 3 students. The Maine DOE also provides interdisciplinary instructional programming and resources around literacy for pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade.

The Maine DOE has obtained a preschool development grant through the federal government to support   professional learning in birth through grade three literacy practices grounded in science and the Department is working to secure access to on-demand literacy modules that cover a wide variety of literacy content grounded in science for elementary educators, including content related to brain development, instructional practices connected to the essential components of reading and writing, dyslexia, and multilingual learners.

Last month, the Mills administration expanded the state’s partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, with 4,500 eligible Maine children currently receiving free, high-quality, age-appropriate books through the program. The Maine DOE recently announced a partnership with I’m Your Neighbor Books to provide Welcoming Libraries to 16 schools across Maine, with each library containing 60 books featuring stories of immigrant families and the diversity of America. The Maine DOE also hosts the Read to ME Challenge every February to encourage adults to read aloud to children and Read to Ride Summer, a contest that qualifies students who read at least 500 minutes over the summer a chance to win one of 48 donated bikes and helmets.

The DOE has also created several literacy-related educator groups, for educators and education organizations across Maine to share and develop resources and guide the state’s literacy work, including the State Literacy Team, Maine Association for Improving Literacy (MAIL) Network, State Dyslexia Advisory Group, Screening Project & Dyslexia Plan, and the Higher Education Pre-Service Literacy Faculty Group. These groups also share information, facilitate text studies, and offer training related to dyslexia awareness, the Science of Reading, the neuroscience of the reading brain, systematic and evidence-based Tier I instruction to lower special education referral rates, support for striving readers, alignment and collaboration between general and special education for IDEA, and inclusive literacy instruction for students identified as having specific learning disabilities.

Literacy grants will be allocated to school administrative units (SAUS) and Education in Unorganized Territory (EUT) schools based on a formula model and the Maine DOE will be contacting SAUs & EUT directly through the Grants4ME platform with more information about their participation in the literacy grant program. Federal emergency relief funding was used to support these grants.

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