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MSDE Announces $6.85M Philanthropic Partnership to Increase Literacy Outcomes


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MSDE Announces $6.85M Philanthropic Partnership to Increase Literacy Outcomes

Grant invests in high-quality, professional learning grounded in the Science of Reading


BALTIMORE (May 21, 2024) — Today, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) announced a $6.85 million, four-year philanthropic partnership with nonprofit Ibis Group to increase literacy outcomes statewide. The grant will fund the deployment of high-quality professional development aligned to the Science of Reading for thousands of Maryland educators and administrators, starting Monday, July 1.

Ibis group logoResearch shows the development and mastery of early literacy skills are a strong predictor of later school achievement, and students who have not achieved grade-level literacy proficiency are at higher risk of not finishing high school. In an effort to prepare educators to teach students well, an estimated $5.35 million of the Ibis Group grant will go towards professional development grounded in the Science of Reading, an evidence-based instructional philosophy that emphasizes skills development in phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension to build strong literacy skills. 

The funding will provide educators, paraprofessionals and administrators with free access to microcredential continuing education units (CEU) from the State University of New York (SUNY), New Paltz and the AIM Institute for Learning and Research. The SUNY New Paltz program aims to reach 27,500 participants — 22,000 elementary teachers; 4,000 middle and high school teachers and administrators; and 1,500 paraprofessionals to support district grow-your-own initiatives. The AIM program will be available for up to 6,000 school administrators and school district literacy supervisors.

The remaining $1.5 million will fund a research impact study through a partnership between MSDE and Johns Hopkins University.

“Strong literacy skills are the gateway to better futures for students in our schools, and we simply cannot do this work alone,” said Dr. Carey M. Wright, State Superintendent of Schools. “We need collaborators, and this investment from private partners increases access to professional development that will help to enhance educator effectiveness. We are grateful for the shared commitment to Maryland educators and our work to increase literacy outcomes in all schools.”

“Maryland’s students deserve the best education system in the country, and public-private partnerships such as this one foster collaboration that propels our state forward. I am grateful for the leadership of Dr. Carey Wright in shepherding these resources to fulfill the Maryland State Department of Education’s strategic goals,” said Gov. Wes Moore.

Dr. Wright was appointed State Superintendent of Schools by the Maryland State Board of Education in April. She previously served a nine-year term as State Superintendent of Education in Mississippi, elevating the state to national acclaim for its high literacy instruction and outcomes. Earlier this year, the State Board set an aspirational target for Maryland to rank among the top 10 states in reading on the fourth- and eighth-grade National Assessment for Educational Proficiency (NAEP) exams by 2027. 

During Dr. Wright’s tenure in Mississippi, student achievement on NAEP improved at a faster rate than nearly all other states: NAEP fourth-grade reading rose from 50th to 21st in the nation. Additionally, economically disadvantaged fourth-graders achieved higher NAEP reading and math scores than their peers, across racial and ethnic lines, both regionally and nationally.

“While Dr. Carey Wright was Superintendent in Mississippi, she assisted in implementing the Legislature’s Mississippi Education Works agenda. These education reforms led to increased student achievement now referred to as the ‘Mississippi Miracle’. Now, in her new position, I have full confidence that Dr. Wright will use her experience to help improve and sustain literacy outcomes for children across Maryland,” said former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

Student literacy rates are improving across Maryland. Literacy results from the 2022-23 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) were higher than pre-pandemic performance: Third-grade proficiency rates reached a nine-year high of 48 percent and more students across all grades moved closer to achieving proficiency than in previous years. However, Maryland’s NAEP ranking decreased to 40th in 2022 based on fourth-grade scores. Among eighth-graders, the ranking dropped to 25th during the same time period. 

“These are the right investments and the right goals at the right time to improve literacy in Maryland. More resources in our schools are what teachers need for support and what students need for success,” said Clarence C. Crawford, State Board of Education President.

SUNY New Paltz: Science of Reading Fundamentals Microcredential Program

The SUNY New Paltz Science of Reading Fundamentals Microcredential Program focuses on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. It provides a fully online, self-paced, asynchronous curriculum. Upon successful completion of the program, a participant receives a microcredential license that evidences 35 successful hours of professional learning. 

AIM Institute for Learning and Research: AIM Pathways Program

AIM Pathways is an interactive digital teacher training platform designed to deliver research and evidence-based content in the Science of Reading. Portions of the AIM Pathways program include the Pathways to Literacy Leadership and the Pathways to Proficient Reading: Secondary (the “Pathways Programs”), which aim to ensure that school administrators and school district supervisors or coordinators are well-versed in instructional delivery and aligned with Science of Reading classroom practices. 

Starting July 1, both programs will be available through June 30, 2028.