The Montana OPI (Office of Public Instruction) announced on Wednesday that the state has received a 5-year $50 million grant to build and improve literacy throughout all the state’s school districts.

Spokesman Dylan Klapmeier said the monies were issued through the Striving Readers Comprehensive State Development Program literacy grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“This is a new grant to Montana, but it’s complimentary to some previous grants that we’ve received from the U.S. Department of Education,” said Klapmeier. “The purpose of the grants is to serve public school systems from preschool through grade 12, especially with an emphasis on disadvantaged children, but really it’s for any children within a system that successfully applies and receives these sub-grants, so the funds will be sub granted to local school districts.”

Klapmeier laid out the distribution of the funds.

“15 percent will be going to preschool programs,” he said. “40 percent will go to elementary programs and another 40 percent to middle and high school programs, with five percent staying here at the state level for support.”

Klapmeier said there are specific expectations with the acceptance of the grants.

“The expectation for outcomes is that for four year-old children are achieving significant gains in language skills as determined by state assessment, and that we’re seeing increases in participation and proficiency for 5th grade, 8th grade and high school students based on our state wide exams,” he said. “That’s Smarter Balance for elementary and middle school and the ACT for high school. As you previously reported, our statewide scores are fairly stagnant and we do have a lot of students who are not proficient in math, so we want to move the needle on those statewide test scores.”

Montana was previously awarded a 3-year, $24 million federal literacy grant in 2017.

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