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State higher ed literacy council advances teacher preparation

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of Mississippi’s Higher Education Literacy Council, a group of college and university literacy professors, are part of a statewide effort to help new teachers use cognitive and educational research in the classroom.

The project is funded by a $725,450 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, and a $60,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

The three-year project, which commences this fall, focuses on improving the quality of pre-service content and instruction at the college and university level. Goals include reducing the cost of retraining teachers after they enter an elementary classroom and of retaining teachers over time.

“The Higher Education Literacy Council’s full involvement in this project places Mississippi ahead of other states by acknowledging the challenges associated with teacher preparation,” said Angela Rutherford, the council’s president and director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

“This grant will enable us to build a replicable model for transforming teacher preparation in early literacy instruction. We are already getting calls from other states about our work here.”

Like all elementary teachers serving in K-3 classrooms, Mississippi elementary education professors also will receive training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. The Kellogg grant complements the LETRS training by providing campus-based coaching and seminars specifically designed for this higher education audience.

The Legislature has taken steps in recent years to improve children’s reading achievement in Mississippi.

“The grants provided by the Kellogg Foundation and the Hardin Foundation will make a tremendous difference in our state by helping to transform teacher preparation and improve literacy,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “There is no doubt that early literacy instruction builds the foundation for all learning as children continue to progress through school.

“This project demonstrates the Higher Education Literacy Council’s commitment to ensuring all children are provided this foundation.”

“We are all very pleased to learn of the grant support provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to undergird the state’s commitment to increase literacy outcomes for Mississippi children,” said Ann Blackwell, recently retired education dean at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Blackwell and Thea Williams Black, of Tougaloo College, co-chaired a Governor’s Task Force Working Group that inspired the idea for professional development for early literacy professors.

Information provided by Ole Miss Communications

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