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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs: FY2016

Focus on Early Literacy
Fund Code: 734a

Purpose: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) is offering a competitive grant to educational collaboratives to support the statewide goal of improving literacy from kindergarten through third grade and to enhance the role of educational collaboratives as partners with DESE and school districts in their region in supporting districts and schools in early literacy.

The grant is part of a four year plan to improve early literacy in the state. Collaboratives will recruit and support school districts (Levels 3 and 4) to participate in professional development/training on effective early learning/literacy practices designed to improve curriculum and instruction in kindergarten through third grade. Districts may choose to make a one year commitment (January through June 2016) that involves participation in two statewide conferences and two follow-up regional meetings. Depending on appropriation, districts that choose to make a four-year commitment will receive intensive training and the benefit of on-site coaching.

The state and regional conferences will be based on the curriculum, instruction and assessment approaches exemplified by Focus on K2© ("K2" refers to the kindergarten year), a research-based curriculum developed by Boston Public Schools' Early Childhood Department and its higher education partners. Boston Public Schools is currently piloting a similarly-structured curriculum for first grade, and has a second grade curriculum under development. Educators will learn about effective practices in early learning and literacy through this integrated, developmentally appropriate approach to curriculum, instruction and assessment. The practices and content are aligned with the MA Curriculum Frameworks in English language arts, social studies and science as well as with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards, and the WIDA standards. This approach promotes inclusion of children with disabilities and is adapted for English language learners. (For research and background on the pre-kindergarten OWL curriculum and Focus on K2©, see the Additional Information section.)

Districts may commit to a one-year (January-June 2016) exploration into this approach for kindergarten-grade 3, or make a four-year commitment. For those making a one-year commitment, training will provide an introduction and overview of the principles as well as instructional, and assessment practices embedded in the curriculum for kindergarten through third grade. A team from the district/school will attend two state conferences, with a regional networking meeting following each one in order to deepen participants' understanding of the ideas presented. Each teacher will select at least one practice or principle from the state conference to work on in their schools, and then attend the regional networking meeting to discuss their work.

Subject to annual appropriation, educators in districts making a four-year commitment will either attend the two statewide conferences and regional conferences or, for those interested, may start implementing the Focus on K2© curriculum in kindergarten initiated by attending a 5-day intensive training. Those who do not attend this training will participate in FY17. In both cases, districts will select a district coach to participate in the five day training. Depending on appropriation, full implementation of the kindergarten curriculum is expected in FY17, first grade in FY18, and second grade in FY19.

The statewide target for participation in Year 1 is 85 teachers in districts that make a four-year commitment, with an additional 200 teachers in districts making only the initial year commitment.

Priorities:
  • To promote a comprehensive, developmentally-appropriate approach to early literacy through professional development, technical assistance and classroom resources. (See Additional Information for selection criteria, dates and other specifics.)

  • To promote an approach to curriculum and instruction that balances active learning and teacher-directed learning of academic content and skills; integration of subject areas; authentic assessments based on observation; and a collaborative approach to planning by classroom staff, specialists and administrators.

  • In the longer term, to extend this approach to curriculum and instruction in full day kindergarten into first and second grades.

  • To promote a closer relationship between educational collaboratives and school districts to strengthen regional support to districts and schools.

  • To enhance the capacity of educational collaboratives to facilitate practices to promote achievement in early literacy.


Eligibility:
  • All educational collaboratives in Massachusetts are eligible to apply. A total of six collaboratives, one per geographical region, will be chosen for funding.

  • Collaboratives must secure partnership with two or more school districts in their DSAC region. Each district must commit to the participation of at least one school with two to three full-day kindergarten classrooms participating. Proposals that include Level 4 schools will be given priority. However, Level 3 schools are eligible and encouraged to participate.

    • Districts may make either a one year commitment to explore this approach to curriculum, instruction and assessment, or a four year commitment to either implement the principles of this approach in the participating classrooms, or implement Boston's curricula in kindergarten through second grade.

    • Districts making a one-year commitment must commit to the participation of at least one school with the participation of a team of teachers, principals, and other administrators or specialists, representing kindergarten, first, second and third grades in the state conferences and regional networking meetings.

    • Each district making a four-year commitment must identify an early literacy coach to participate in the intensive five-day training provided by Boston Public Schools' Early Childhood Department staff. This coach can be a teacher, administrator, or specialist.

      • Educators may also choose to attend the five-day training if they want to start implementing the Focus on K2© curriculum and/or implementing the principles of the curriculum in kindergarten.
      • Teachers and administrators are expected to participate in training and implementation (see Additional Information for specifics and dates) in Years 2 through 4.
      • All participating classrooms are expected to make use of the curriculum, instructional, observational assessment, and other practices that will be the focus of the training provided, whether it is using the principles with their pre-existing curriculum or the BPS curricula vertically from kindergarten through second grade.

  • Collaboratives must designate an early literacy specialist to work with the participating Level 4 districts that make a four year commitment. This specialist can be a staff member or an external consultant with expertise in early childhood and/or early elementary education and literacy. DESE Literacy Specialists will provide coaching to Level 3 districts. The specialist must attend the five days of intensive training provided by BPS staff.

Funding:
  • About $1,000,000 is available for this project.

  • Up to six collaboratives, one in each DSAC region, will be selected on a competitive basis.

  • A collaborative may apply for between $100,000 and $300,000 per region for the remainder of this fiscal year (Year 1: January-June, 2016).

  • Collaboratives including schools at Level 4 will be given priority.

  • Proposals that include districts making a four year commitment will receive priority.

  • Stipends, substitutes, and travel may be paid/ reimbursed for teachers and administrators in Levels 3 and 4 districts making one- and four-year commitments.

  • Subject to funding availability, districts making a four-year commitment may apply for continuation grants in subsequent fiscal years.

Fund Use: Funds in Year 1 must be used for:
  • Required payment of $7,500 (per collaborative) to Boston Public Schools for professional development and technical assistance (place this expenditure on Line 5: Contractual Services, of Part II, Budget Detail). (If fewer than six collaboratives are chosen, this amount will change.)

  • Compensation to collaboratives for their administration of this project will be based on the number of classrooms participating (place on Line 1):

    up to 10 classrooms
    $15,000
    11-18 classrooms
    $20,000
    19 - 25 classrooms
    $25,000

  • Collaboratives are expected to procure adequate space for the two networking meetings in their regions in FY16.

  • Compensation for the collaboratives' early literacy specialist (on Line 1 for staff or Line 5 for a consultant, based on $75/hour) for:

    • 5 full days of professional development provided by BPS staff (optional) 2 state conferences and 2 regional networking meetings.
    • Facilitation of one regional meeting (about 5 hours) for participants in the region;
    • Planning/debriefing/administrative consulting;
    • 20 hours work with the teacher of each participating classroom;
    • Travel reimbursement at $.45/mile.

  • Reimbursements for districts making a one year commitment:

    • Professional development: substitutes and travel reimbursement for educators and principals for:

      • 2 state conferences (full days in Marlborough) provided by BPS staff, focusing on key strategies and practices to be implemented in K-3 classrooms.
      • 2 follow-up regional networking meetings (4-5 hours each).

    • Materials: $500 per classroom for materials consistent with the approach (guidance provided by DESE and BPS). These should be related to the practices chosen to work on at the state conferences and regional meetings.

  • Reimbursements for districts making a four year commitment: Stipends, substitutes, and travel for:

    • 5 full days of professional development and networking.
    • (Optional) participation in statewide and regional conferences.
    • Materials: $2,000 per kindergarten classroom.
    • Each district's early literacy coach is eligible for stipends of $3,000 for work in their school(s) and classrooms and $500 for participating in the 5 day training.

Project Duration: Upon approval through 6/30/2016
Program Unit: Curriculum and Instruction/Office of Literacy and Humanities
Contacts: Alice Barton abarton@doe.mass.edu
Phone Number: (781) 338-6354
Date Due: Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Proposals must be received at the Department by 5:00 p.m. on the date due.

Required Forms:
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Part I — General - Program Unit Signature Page (Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants)
Download Excel Document
Part II — Budget Detail Pages (include both pages; include daily or hourly rates, numbers of staff, etc.)
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Part III — Required Program Information

From districts making a four-year commitment:

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Part IV — Assurance from Participating District
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Part V — Assurance from Participating School
Additional Information: Background
The approach to early learning (pre-kindergarten-grade 3) as exemplified by the curriculum, instruction and assessment included in this grant is developmentally appropriate, rigorous, and aligned with the MA Curriculum Frameworks.

The curriculum, as developed by Boston Public Schools, for full-day kindergarten is called Focus on K2© (K2 being kindergarten). The first grade curriculum is currently being piloted, and a second grade curriculum is being developed.

For a research and literature review on this approach to curriculum and instruction, see Theory, Research, and Rationale Behind the Focus on K2 Curriculum.

The OWL (Opening the World of Learning) curriculum being used in Boston public pre-kindergartens, and Focus on K2© in kindergarten, have been widely implemented and have shown promising results. They have gained national attention for their impact on instruction, and shown promising results for student learning. The OWL, a preschool curriculum that, when implemented with fidelity, has resulted in significant gains in vocabulary, numeracy, executive function, and emotional regulation among children in participating classrooms (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013).

Focus on K2: The curriculum is aligned with the OWL curriculum. In addition, the approach draws on Reggio Emilia, and uses the Making Learning Visible approach to observational assessment.

For specifics on the Focus on K2© curriculum, an overview of the first grade curriculum, and other aspects of the BPS' model, see: Focus on K2.

For information on Making Learning Visible, see: Making Learning Visible webpage or go to the Making Learning Visible website.

Summary of Activities
Year 1 (FY16) Introduction to Effective Practices
Collaboratives, districts and schools making a one year commitment will participate in:
  • 2 statewide conferences on effective practices in early learning. The district teams select at least one principle/practice to implement after each state conference.
  • 2 regional networking meetings where teams share their experiences implementing the principle/practice they selected after the state conference.
Collaboratives, districts and schools making a four-year commitment:
  • 5 day intensive training for district coaches, collaboratives' early literacy specialists (required), and teachers/administrators who choose to start implementing Focus on K2© this year (optional).
  • On-site coaching
  • Classrooms may continue to use their current curriculum/themes, but work on modifying instructional practices consistent with the practices and principles introduced at the state conferences.
Subject to appropriation:

Year 2 (FY17) Kindergarten (for districts making a four year commitment)
Collaboratives, districts and schools will participate in:
  • 5 days of intensive training and implementation of the four units of the Focus on K2© curriculum in selected kindergarten classrooms (for those who did not participate in FY 16).
  • On-site coaching (Level 4 by collaborative early literacy specialist; Level 3 by DESE Literacy Specialists)
Year 3 (FY18) Expansion to Grade 1 ( districts making a four year commitment)
Collaboratives, districts and schools will participate in:
  • Up to 3 days of training for kindergarten staff, if needed.
  • 5 days of intensive training and implementation of the BPS grade 1 curriculum
  • On-site coaching (Level 4 by collaborative's early literacy specialist; Level 3 by DESE Literacy Specialists)
Year 4 (FY19) Expansion to Grade 2 (districts making a four year commitment)
Collaboratives, districts and schools will participate in:
  • 3 days training for Grade 1 teachers, if needed.
  • 5-days of Intensive training and implementation of the BPS grade 2 curriculum
  • 2 regional networking meetings
  • On-site coaching (Level 4 by collaborative early literacy specialist; Level 3 by DESE Literacy Specialists)
Webinars: An initial webinar for interested collaboratives will be held November 23 at 1:30 p.m. The session will provide the following information: 1) an overview of the curriculum, instruction, and assessment approach presented by staff from Boston Public Schools Early Childhood Department; and 2) details about the grant and grant application process.

Another webinar will be offered December 3 at 1:30 p.m. for educators in interested districts, to provide more information about this approach to early literacy and the details of their potential involvement in the grant.

Dates:
  • November 23, 1:30 p.m: Informational webinar for educational collaborative.
  • December 3, 1:30 p.m: Informational webinar for interested district educators.
  • Professional development:
    • January 13, 2016 (Marlborough) State conference #1: for districts making a one-year commitment and those making a four-year commitment that choose to attend. Participants may include teachers, principals, instructional assistants, specialists (special education, ELL/ESL, reading, etc.), and collaboratives' early childhood/early literacy staff or consultant (optional).Training provided by staff of BPS.
    • January 19, 25 and 27 and two additional days TBD: intensive training for districts making a four-year commitment and who want to start implementing the Focus on K2 curriculum in full-day kindergartens this year.
    • February -- Regional networking meeting #1: The training in the Greater Boston region will be provided by staff of Boston Public Schools. Other regional networking meetings will be facilitated by DESE Literacy Specialists.
    • May 5: State conference #2.
    • April/May: Regional networking meeting #2, facilitated by DESE Literacy Specialists.
Roles:
Educational collaboratives will be responsible for:
  • Selecting participating districts and schools for one-year and four-year commitments.
  • Reimbursing districts for costs of substitutes, stipends, and travel.
  • Selecting, managing and compensating the early literacy specialist.
  • Managing the purchase of materials for participating K-2 classrooms. Guidance for what materials to purchase will be provided by BPS' Early Childhood Department and ESE. Securing space in the region to hold the two regional follow-up meetings.
  • Paying $7,500 to BPS for providing training.
Districts/schools making a one-year commitment will be responsible for:
  • Committing a team of educators, to include teachers, a central office administrator, principals, literacy coaches, instructional assistants, and specialists (e.g., special education, ELL/ESL, reading) to attend the two statewide conferences and the two regional networking meetings.
  • Supporting reorganization of participating classrooms to support the instructional principles and integrated curriculum approach of the state conferences and regional meetings.
  • Hosting on-site observation and feedback visits from the collaborative's early literacy specialist.
Those making a four-year commitment will be responsible for:
  • Selecting full-day kindergarten classrooms to participate in the project. The Focus on K2 approach may be particularly helpful for kindergarten classrooms pursuing accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
  • Providing the necessary release time for the early literacy coaches to attend the five days of intensive training on the Focus on K2© curriculum. This training will take place in Boston.
  • Ensuring that the district's early literacy coaches have dedicated time to coach staff in addition to meeting other responsibilities.
  • Having the commitment of the superintendent (indicated by Part IV: District Assurance), principal (Part V: School Assurance form), and teachers in participating classrooms.
  • Ensuring that there are first and second grade classrooms/teachers willing to implement the curricula for those grade levels in FY 18 and 19.
  • Cooperating with the project evaluator, UMass Donahue Institute (funded by ESE).
Subject to appropriation:

For FY 17, participating schools/districts must:
Districts will fully implement Focus on K2 in full-day kindergarten classrooms in the 2016-17 school year. Participating kindergarten classrooms must:
  • (for those educators who did not attend the 5-day training in FY16) will attend early in FY17.
  • Have a full-school-day schedule in kindergarten.
  • Use the materials identified for the curriculum (and supported by the grant); be prepared to adjust the classroom to support centers, e.g., arts, writing/communication, science, construction.
  • Commit to using common planning time to review observational and other data, and to plan instruction.
For FY 18, participating schools/districts must:
  • Attend 3-5 training by BPS staff on implementing the first grade curriculum.
  • Implement the first grade curriculum in selected classrooms.
For FY 19, participating schools/districts must:
  • Attend training by BPS staff on implementing the second grade curriculum
  • Expand implementation to second grade classrooms (subject to appropriation).
Submission Instructions:
  1. Email the workbook, the workbook, application, and related documents through the Security Portal to reading@doe.mass.edu.

  2. Prepare and send two hard copies of the entire grant proposal: Part I, with an original signature of the superintendent of the educational collaborative; Part II; Part III; and the Assurances (Parts IV and V) with original signatures.

    Mail to:

    Alice Barton
    Office of Literacy and Humanities
    MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    75 Pleasant Street
    Malden, MA 02148-4906



Last Updated: November 13, 2015
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