March 28, 2023

New Hampshire’s Executive Council approved a $5 million federally funded program to train teachers and caregivers how to teach reading to kids, part of an effort by the state to boost literacy. 
In a vote Wednesday, the council approved a contract between the Department of Education and Lexia Learning Systems, a Concord, Mass., company that produces teaching resources for reading lessons. 
New Hampshire’s statewide assessment scores for English have dropped in recent years, driven by turmoil during the outbreak of COVID-19. In 2018, 54 percent of third graders were found to be proficient in English assessments; that number was 45 percent in 2021 and 2022, according to the department’s latest numbers. Older students have also seen a decline: Eighth grade English proficiency fell from 58 percent in 2018 to 46 percent in 2022. Statewide assessments are carried out only between the third and eighth grade. 
The new contract will allow the state to offer two 4½-month programs, one targeted toward early childhood educators and another toward school administrators. There will also be a longer, year-and-a-half program for elementary school teachers to train in new techniques, according to the contract. 
The early childhood educator training is also open to parents, grandparents, and those working in early childhood organizations, such as day care and pre-kindergarten. 
“The more children know about language and literacy before they begin kindergarten and first grade, the better equipped they are to succeed in literacy learning and beyond,” the contract states.
Participants in the administrator and elementary school teacher programs may include staff and school leaders at public and nonpublic schools, according to the contract. The program for teachers “addresses each essential component of reading instruction and the foundational concepts that link each component,” according to the contract, and includes “theoretical models from reading science, phonology, basic and advanced phonics, screening, and educational diagnostic assessment.”
The Lexia program, known as the Literacy Professional Learning Course of Study, will be open for online registration starting Oct. 31. Services will continue through 2025. The program will have its own website, designed by Lexia, according to the contract. 
The program accompanies a separate $495,000 marketing contract approved by the council Wednesday that allows the department to partner with Güd Marketing, based in Lansing, Mich., to launch a statewide reading campaign. 
Both contracts will be paid for from the state’s share of ESSER III funds, or Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief, a block grant distributed to states through the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. 
In a statement Wednesday, Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut acknowledged the dip in English proficiency levels in elementary and middle school, and said the new programs were intended to help students and schools recover. 
“Our statewide assessment scores indicate the importance and the need to close some learning gaps, and we want to make sure we are offering all students a firm foundation for success,” Edelblut said. “Reading is the core of that foundation.”
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