An initiative of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), the Reading Roadmap began in the fall of 2013. DCF recognized the importance of early literacy and understood its connection to success in school and prosperity in life.
While not involved directly with education, DCF funded childcare, afterschool, and family programs targeting low-income populations and believed these types of social service programs could be used in partnership with schools to promote early literacy. To pursue that objective, DCF commissioned the Kansas Reading Roadmap to find innovative strategies for afterschool, summer, and family engagement programs to promote early literacy.
Andrew Hysell was recruited from Save the Children, United States Programs, to develop the Kansas model. An expert on early literacy programs and how they help disadvantaged youth, Hysell drew upon his experience to develop the Kansas Reading Roadmap model to achieve the following goals:
- Increase early literacy rates across entire school populations
- Demonstrate literacy improvements on school assessments
- Repurpose existing funding streams to provide additional benefits
Central to impact of the Reading Roadmap was its pairing of out-of-school programs with the Kansas Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). A whole school approach to data, instruction, and intervention developed by the Kansas State Department of Education, MTSS helps schools identify individual student reading needs and provide instruction to meet those needs.
The Reading Roadmap built its programming around MTSS as a universal adapter that allowed in-school strategies to connect directly with afterschool, summer, and family engagement programming. This connection created an integration of out-of-school programs into the school’s intervention system. The result was that Reading Roadmap schools could now use afterschool to drive student reading growth.
Demonstrating a commitment to rural education, the Reading Roadmap began in 20 rural southeastern Kansas schools in 2014. Building on the success of the starter programs, the number of Reading Roadmap programs increased to 40 the following year and continued to grow. The program now reaches more than 10,000 Kansas students per year in more than 60 schools, and has expanded to Mississippi and South Carolina.
“To close the literacy gap that exists in underserved populations, out-of-school time needs to be better utilized,” according to Andrew Hysell, Executive Director of the Reading Roadmap. “Reading Roadmap schools have demonstrated that out-of-school can be a low-cost and effective extension for reading intervention. Through a systematic alignment of school data and educational strategy with out-of-school programming, schools and states can get better results out of existing spending.”