Oct 14, 2019

Department of Education Earns Five Competitive Grants Focused on Literacy, Mental Health, STEM, and Special Education

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Education today announced it has earned five competitive federal grant awards, totaling $115 million, from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The grants, which vary in dollar amount and length, will enhance literacy programming and instruction; expand direct mental health services for students, including those who are historically disadvantaged and those who have experienced trauma; create opportunities for teachers to earn credentials in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, known as STEM, fields; and establish a leadership program for current and aspiring special education administrators.

"The U.S. Department of Education continues to recognize Louisiana as a state that generates creative ideas to solve critical problems. These five new awards will support the implementation of plans to address many of our schools' and students' greatest challenges," said State Superintendent John White. "We look forward to collaborating with state agencies, school systems and community partners to implement effective solutions to these pressing concerns."

The grant awards include:

  • Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program Grant: The award, which totals $100 million over five years, will add another layer of literacy support for schools across the state that have been identified as having low academic performance overall or among certain groups of students. The grant will help schools purchase top-rated reading curricula and instructional materials, provide educators with professional development, implement interventions to support students who struggle with reading, and roll-out evidence-based literacy resources for families. Louisiana aims to serve 600 high-needs schools and early childhood education providers, 2,000 local leaders, 9,600 teachers, and 240,000 disadvantaged children by the end of the five-year grant period.
  • Trauma Recovery Grant: The award, which totals $7.5 million and spans five years, will help Louisiana increase access to mental health services in order to boost academic performance and decrease absence and discipline rates. The state education department will partner with the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and community agencies to pay for direct mental health services for students who have experienced trauma, with a particular focus on low-income, foster, homeless, and migrant students. The initiative will build on a prior grant-funded project in which the Tulane University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences developed a Trauma and Behavioral Health (TBH) screener for DCFS to use in identifying foster care children in need of mental health services due to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. The TBH will now serve as a tool for school professionals to screen students for the same needs. The grant will also expand the Department's Counselor Assistance Center, which currently provides academic and post-secondary planning support to school counselors and high school students.
  • Improving Pre-Engineering and Computer Science Education through Micro-credentialing Grant: The award, which totals $4 million over four years, will develop a certification pathway for teachers to earn certifications for their expertise in STEM fields, including pre-engineering and computer science, to complement the expansion of STEM Pathways, part of the state's nationally recognized Jump Start career and technical education initiative.
  • Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant: The award, which totals $2.5 million over five years, will fund a partnership between the Department and LSU School of Social Work to create the "Louisiana School Social Work Expansion Project," an effort to expand and strengthen the school-based mental health workforce, particularly at sites with a high number of economically disadvantaged students and with high rates of teacher turnover. The project aims to provide enhanced mental health services to students in these high-needs schools, prepare the school-based mental health workforce to provide students multi-tiered systems of support, and improve school culture and climate to better prepare students for employment, responsible citizenship, and fulfilling lives.
  • Special Education Leadership Grant: The award, which totals $1 million and spans five years, will establish a "Special Education Leader Fellowship." The fellowship will be a year-long, comprehensive development program for aspiring and novice special education leaders across the state. The fellowship will provide in-person training, coaching, and a community of practice that will instill the knowledge and skills the next generation of leaders need to lead and sustain change to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The new program will build upon the state's existing and successful fellowship programs for educators and administrators, such as the Principal Leader Fellowship Program and the Content Leader pathway.

The Department will immediately begin formalizing partnerships with other agencies and will soon provide information to school systems about how they can access the services supported by these awards.

"BESE is excited by the news of these substantial grant awards that our state has received," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Dr. Gary Jones. "This funding will add greatly to Louisiana's efforts to improve and expand literacy and mental health programs, STEM education, and educator development. We applaud the Department and Superintendent White for aggressively pursuing federal dollars to maximize the reach and effectiveness of these important statewide initiatives."

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