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WDMCS Receives United Way Grant for Early Literacy Program

clive_school_site_boy_and_girl_readingWest Des Moines Community Schools has been awarded an early literacy grant from United Way of Central Iowa for $69,744.92.

Grant funds will be used for professional development and instructional materials as well as family take home kits that will include books for shared reading and vocabulary activities. The grant will also fund Family Learning Nights, which will include a dinner for the family, vocabulary instruction strategy demonstration and practice.

The grant is focused on two goals:

  1. Increase the percentage of students in grades 1-3 who are proficient in reading and therefore increase the likelihood for graduating from high school.
  2. Expand the parental involvement and partnerships that focus on reading achievement in the targeted schools.

The grant was submitted by the district’s curriculum department on behalf of Clive, Crestview, Hillside and Phenix elementaries. A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation states that students who don’t read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than those students who are proficient readers. Students who are poor readers and live in poverty are the hardest hit—they are at a six times greater risk than their proficient counterparts, the study found.

Research also shows that parental involvement has a strong, positive effect on student achievement and is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement. It is estimated that schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than $1,000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement.

“We are grateful to United Way of Central Iowa for their generosity in funding the Early Literacy Grant,” said Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Laurene Lanich. “The funds provided through the grant will serve our schools, students and families well as we work in partnership serving primary age students in the areas of vocabulary acquisition and reading proficiency.”

The district will be collaborating with the Heartland Area Education Agency (AEA), Iowa Sustaining Parental Involvement Network (iSPIN) and Benchmark Literacy Professional Development on this project.