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May 17, 2011

McKnight Foundation funds literacy plan for CEHD partner school district

The McKnight Foundation has announced funding for a preK-3 reading initiative in collaboration with CEHD and the Brooklyn Center Independent School District #286. Part of a larger effort to improve early literacy, the McKnight funding will include an initial $150,000 grant to develop comprehensive strategies, with additional funding possible after the first year for implementation.

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The college's strong relationship with the district's Earle Brown Elementary School has become a model for success and shows the positive effects of support from literacy faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction's elementary education program. "For six years, the district has partnered with the University of Minnesota to introduce the concept of a continuum that includes reading strategies, skills, and assessment tools within an elementary literacy framework," according to the McKnight announcement. Initial licensure candidates from the college have taken literacy education courses at Earle Brown.

More recently, CEHD's Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) has strengthened the bond with Earle Brown even more, said partnership coordinator Stacy Ernst. "The deepening relationship is an example of how the redesign of the way we 'do' partnerships helps all involved--districts, centers, programs--deepen, focus, and fund the work," she said. "The college's Educator Development and Research Center (EDRC) is working across college departments and centers to advocate for our school partners and university faculty, match interests/research needs, and coordinate new connections within the TERI Partner Network."

The McKnight early literacy planning grant involves several college centers: the Minnesota Center for Reading Research (MCRR), the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), and EDRC. Through the TERI partnership, Earle Brown will benefit from CEHD's co-teaching teacher candidates from elementary education for year-long clinical experiences beginning in August 2011. The McKnight funding will enhance the college/district partnership, according to Brooklyn Center superintendent Keith Lester. "Reading is a gateway to lifelong learning, and all students deserve to be guided through it," he said. "The McKnight partnership will allow Earle Brown to fully coordinate the efforts of our dedicated teachers toward closing the achievement gap and moving each of our children toward this goal." MCRR and CEED will collaborate to help Brooklyn Center staff as they develop a plan for expanding their literacy framework to encompass a comprehensive Pre-K through third grade literacy continuum.

The McKnight funding is also being extended to Minneapolis Public Schools, which is another TERI partner and recently announced a Target corporation grant to support a research-based literacy initiative with MCRR aimed at preparing all Minneapolis students to read by the third grade.