COLORADO — Schools across Colorado will get an upgrade to their reading and math curriculum thanks to millions in federal COVID relief funds.
The $10 million in funds will be distributed to 42 school districts and 28 charter schools across the state for K-8 math curricula and K-3 READ Act instructional programming, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The money will help schools purchase new reading and math curricula after the pandemic significantly disrupted learning.
In El Paso County and Pueblo County, Districts 2, 11, 20, and 70 will receive a portion of the funding. District 11 in Colorado Springs said they bought a new reading curriculum when the pandemic hit, but can still use the funds for anything related to the literacy of kindergarten through third graders. Karol Gates, the curriculum director for District 11, said their new reading curriculum costs around $2 million, and materials aren't cheap.
"Little kids need hardcopy books and that's what gets expensive is just 10 copies of every single title that you have, that you're going to look at. So anytime you bring in any literacy program, it's always going to be pretty expensive," she said.
Gates said their goal is to expand the library of books for elementary students in their schools to meet kids at their own reading level earlier on.
"The longer the kids have with books, the faster they understand how to decode the world around them. Without that, they're kind of in a 2D world. They're not able to see the way in which we can make language come alive. They just have to kind of go off of what people tell them instead of read for themselves," she said.
Colorado's READ Act was updated in 2019, requiring districts to meet certain reading curriculum standards and higher teaching certifications, including training teachers on reading science. Gates said the new training requirement is essential for teachers to be able to guide students through new reading.
"The biggest thing about science of reading is understanding how you can watch a student read something and know did they just memorize what's on the page or are they making sense of the words to be able to apply that to harder, bigger words later," she said.
District 11 will use the federal relief funds to reimburse their purchase of a new math curriculum that will start next school year.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, the pandemic put most students' learning behind by at least seven months, some even more than that. The department also said children who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times as likely to not get a high school diploma.
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