T.L.L. Temple Foundation Approves Early Literacy Grants for Three East Texas Education Partners

Lufkin, TX: After a significant amount of research, data analysis, requests for information, convenings, and planning, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation has identified three lead partners who will receive grants to advance the foundation’s early literacy strategic plan: The New Teacher Project, Deans for Impact, and Instruction Partners. Totaling more than $3 million, the grants will support these partners toward achieving the foundation’s strategic objective for early literacy that all East Texas students have access to high quality Pre-K and early grade programs that enable them to meet or exceed third grade education standards in reading.

“Compared to the state of Texas, fewer East Texas third graders read on grade level,” said Wynn Rosser, president and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. “Ensuring more young East Texans read on grade level is one of the foundation’s highest priorities. Our recent grants to support TNTP, Deans for Impact, and Instruction Partners will address barriers to early literacy by increasing the number of effective teachers and supporting school districts to adopt curricula aligned to the science of teaching reading.”

The foundation’s East Texas service area faces a tremendous challenge. Too many teachers are being sent into classrooms without a firm understanding of the science of how students learn to read, there is a tremendous gap between theory and practice. For example, future teachers may be aware of the importance of phonemic awareness, but do not understand how to implement scientifically grounded instruction to support students. Encouragingly, multiple educator-preparation programs in the region want to change this. They are placing the science of reading at the center of their early elementary education programs.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) has been awarded $1,723,071, payable over two years, allowing them to work with Education Service Centers Region 5 (Beaumont) and Region 7 (Kilgore) Teacher Preparation and Certification Programs (TPCP) to train and certify more new, diverse, highly effective teachers recruited from and committed to staying in East Texas. In partnership with TNTP, Region 5 and Region 7 Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) will become the premier ACPs in East Texas and serve as a
model for other regional service center ACPs across the state. Together, TNTP, Region 5, and Region 7 will bolster both ACPs to provide the highest quality training, rigorous and research-based content, and supportive, impactful teacher development experiences necessary to be at the forefront of teacher certification programs in the region. With TNTP’s direct support and consulting services, Region 5 TCP and Region 7 TPCP will greatly expand their impact – more than doubling the number of teachers certified per year at each program. TNTP will work collaboratively to equip both programs with direct support, as well as the capacity and resources needed, to prioritize the science of reading and early literacy practices within their programs and create two premier alternative certification programs in the state. Since 1997, TNTP has recruited more than 54,000 teachers to the teaching profession, trained more than 37,000 teachers, and staffed 25,354 vacancies for school systems across the country. TNTP will leverage its track record of success by providing recruitment and selection consulting to both regional ACPs to more than double the number of teachers certified by each program by 2024.

For the past several months, Deans for Impact (DFI) has conferred with key leaders from multiple institutions in the region, which include Sam Houston State University (SHSU), Stephen F. Austin University (SFA) and Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT). From conversations with these programs, DFI knows there’s a need to bridge the gap between the science of reading and the practice of preparing future teachers. There are many quality resources available on the basic science, but rarely are these materials designed such that novice teacher-candidates are asked to grapple with how this science should inform their teaching. Further, given the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, faculty are stretched thin, and in
need of additional support that will help enhance existing early literacy preparation efforts. DFI has been awarded a grant of $993,805, payable over two years, to assist with the training and development of teacher-candidates. Each of these institutions has already undertaken significant efforts to foster early literacy teaching skills with the teacher-candidates they prepare, and these programs have been working hard to ensure their candidates understand well-established scientific principles of how students learn to read. DFI proposes to develop Early Literacy by Scientific Design modules that will be developed in conjunction with teams from SHSU, SFA, and TAMUT, and then implemented in accordance with each
institution’s particular needs.

The foundation has also approved a one-year implementation grant in the amount of $350,000 for Instruction Partners, which will support committed school districts in establishing foundational early literacy supports. West Sabine and Chireno ISDs will implement core tier 1 curriculum aligned to the science of reading and lay the system-wide foundation for K-2 reading instruction. Woodville and Newton ISDs will build systems and capacity for teacher support in early literacy, including coaching and feedback
and regular planning focused on their curriculum, and review existing resources and systems for assessment, small group targeted instruction, and teacher professional development for 2023-24 and beyond. As a result of this grant, committed school districts will adopt and strengthen the implementation of foundational early literacy curriculum and support systems among early adopter districts (West Sabine, Chireno, Woodville, and Newton ISDs), and chart a course for future implementation at scale across East Texas.