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UCI is awarded $14.7-million federal grant for literacy program

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded UC Irvine a $14.7-million grant to expand its literacy outreach program for middle and high school students.

The five-year grant will fund the university’s Pathway to Academic Success Project, a multiyear professional development program for teachers. It has been implemented in 10 Southern California school districts in the past 20 years and will now be extended to Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

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The expansion will involve 240 teachers and 109,200 students in school districts affiliated with the National Writing Project. Only three programs in the nation were funded at this level, with Pathway being the highest-scoring, according to Richard Arum, dean of the School of Education at UCI.

“It’s very exciting to see the federal government look to the UCI School of Education for scalable solutions to the nation’s problems,” Arum said.

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The Pathway to Academic Success Project — developed by Carol Booth Olson, a UCI professor of education and director of the UCI Writing Project — has helped close achievement gaps in reading and writing among high-need students, including English-learners and students performing far below grade level, according to UCI officials. It was first launched in the Santa Ana Unified School District in 1996.

The program uses an instructional approach called “cognitive strategies,” which Olson said “reinforces the connections between reading and writing” and can be implemented anywhere. It helps students develop their “analytical and comprehension skills so they’re better prepared for post-secondary education,” she said.

“This grant allows us to scale up and work with the National Writing Project,” Olson said. “We can leverage their reach and infrastructure to take what we’ve done successfully here in California and achieve similar results in other states and beyond.”

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