THE LITERACY PROJECT
Andrew’s Gift has been using Educational Improvement Tax Credit program funds to enhance autism support programs through our Literacy Project to public school systems within Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry counties. These grants provide funding to purchase curricular resources and technological tools for the classroom to enable staff to deliver evidence-based instruction and to capture student motivation. This project provides opportunities for public educational systems to further the development of literacy-focused programs for some of our most challenged and vulnerable students. We partner with the classroom staff to focus on student improvement in the core competencies of reading, writing, and spelling.
Since the start of the project in the 2016-17 school year, we have partnered with
26 classrooms, serving 246 students within Cumberland, Perry, and Dauphin counties.
This is just another way we’re enriching the lives of those living with autism.
The importance of literacy
Literacy is fundamental to learning; it is an essential foundation of education. The ultimate goal of literacy instruction is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication. Helping someone learn to read and write provides them with the ability to improve their standard and quality of life.
The research around literacy and disabilities is just emerging, but there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that with early and systematic literacy instruction individuals with autism can acquire the literacy skills that enable them to participate more fully in our community. The Center for Early Literacy Learning (2007) suggested that instruction in literacy for children with autism should focus on both literacy skills and oral language skills. There is evidence in the literature that when technology is accessible, the frequency and quality of student engagement in literacy activities increase.
How we support schools
Our Literacy Project grants support public educational systems and their autism support programs in bringing evidence-based practices to the development of literacy skills through the use of innovative instruction and 21st century learning tools. We partner with schools to identify curriculum for a diverse range of learners, to support effective instructional practices in a variety of settings, and to introduce technology-based learning tools into these specialized instructional settings.
Participation in the Literacy Project is a 3-year commitment that provides classroom staff with on-site support that will progress from more intensive support in year one to minimal support in year three. On-site consultation will focus on implementation of educational practices that will improve literacy
development, identification of evidence-based curricular resources, and support the intentional use of technology to enhance instruction and individualize learning experiences for students.
Through the use of technology, we seek to improve
student motivation for learning, to ease their ability to fully participate in learning environments, and to demonstrate growth across the components of skilled reading and additional foundational literacy skills.
Grant performance is reviewed on an annual basis to ensure achievement for every student. We believe that the use of data to support student learning is crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and to foster continuous improvement for individual students. Participating schools report on student progress using assessments that are in place as well as newly identified assessments that track student learning. Progress monitoring of participating schools has shown demonstrated growth in student motivation and ability to participated in instruction, the introduction of formal literacy curriculum for students previously
identified as "not ready" or “too cognitively impaired” for formal literacy instruction, and an increase in literacy skills for all students across all literacy domains (oral language, decoding and comprehension, written expression, and spelling).
“The students in the classroom are collectively showing more interest in literacy skills during the activities they choose at free time – writing letters, reading books, literacy apps on the iPad, etc. One student in particular has been commenting that she wants to learn to read when she brings library books back to the class. At the beginning of this grant, this classroom did not have much exposure to literacy activities.” - Becky McVaugh, Andrew’s Gift Classroom Consultant, 2023
“I have seen so much progress and growth in all of my students through the year in their literacy skills. Going from students beginning with letter identification and their sounds at the beginning of the year, to reading whole words by the end of the year has been such an amazing transformation to watch. I love being able to feel more confident in teaching these basic literacy skills to my students…” -Brianne Brong, Newport Elementary School, May 2023
How to participate
Andrew’s Gift is seeking partners to address the literacy needs of their students with autism spectrum disorders. If you are a public school operating in Dauphin, Cumberland, or Perry counties, you are eligible to apply for a grant that provides curricular resources, technology, and onsite professional development to support literacy development. Andrew’s Gift is pleased to announce that we are able to add 3 classrooms to our Literacy Project this upcoming 2024-25 school year.
Responsibilities of grant recipients
Engage in regular, on-site and virtual collaboration with Andrew’s Gift consultants for the duration of the three-year grant period (approximately 40 hours in the first year, decreasing to 30 and 20 hours per year in subsequent years)
Demonstrate regular engagement with the project technology, evidenced by development and growth of staff and student competency observed during consultant visits. Consultants will work alongside teachers to identify strategies and action items to improve classroom outcomes.
Formerly present a project summary and participate in grant review meetings at the end of each school year for the duration of the three-year grant period. This report will include a summary of activities over the current school year, description of major outcome and unanticipated developments or challenges, project evaluation results, and a description of lessons learned and applied
Return all iPads and associated equipment provided pursuant to this grant to us at the end of the grant and any renewal or extensions of the 3-year grant period. In general, the grant is permitted to be renewed so long as the resources continue to be accessible and implemented meaningfully with students on a regular basis.
Timeline for 2024-25 school year Grant Applications
The application process begins with the submission of the completed initial grant application directly through this site.
Submissions are due January 15th 2024, and applicants will be informed regarding the status of their application by early February.
The three classrooms selected for the grant will collaborate in person with an Andrew’s Gift consultant during February 2024 to complete the final grant request, identifying appropriate hardware, curriculum, and applications based upon classroom needs.
Upon approval from the Andrew’s Gift Board of Directors, funds will be disbursed to the Organization / School District in March 2024.
It is requested that the Organization / District purchase the materials in April so that their Technology Department is able to have everything available to the classrooms in August 2024.
Prior to the students starting (generally late August 2024), classroom teachers will commit to an additional on-site collaboration meeting with an Andrew’s Gift consultant in order to prepare the resources for the upcoming school yea