Montana schools will receive a $7.6 million federal grant for the 2011-2012 school year to advance literacy skills, reading and writing for students from early childhood through grade 12. This competitive grant was awarded last week to only six states.

“Reading is a vital skill every child must have for their future academic and economic success,” said Denise Juneau, Montana’s Supt. of Public Instruction. “This grant will allow Montana to seek out innovative strategies to improve literacy for children of all ages.”

The goal of The Montana Striving Reader’s Project is to dramatically improve literacy achievement for all students and to provide support systems for districts, special education preschools and Head Start programs. The Office of Public Instruction expects to award between 25 and 35 grants to school districts and Head Start programs throughout the state.

“Students who struggle with reading are at a higher risk of dropping out of school,” Juneau continued. “This grant is going to provide us with another tool to ensure Montana students are achieving at high levels and earning their high school diploma.”

The Office of Public Instruction will use this grant to improve school readiness and success from early childhood through grade 12 in the area of language and literacy development with an emphasis in closing the achievement gaps among all student groups including low-income students, students with disabilities, American Indian students and limited-English proficient students.

The grant will stress high-quality, engaging literacy instruction for children. Additionally, the OPI will work with grantees to decrease the percentage of students who drop out of high school and implement a data-driven decision-making process to collect, analyze, and use high-quality data to assess the effectiveness of literacy programs.