Director chosen for new program that aims to dramatically change how public educators teach reading, writing

photo by: Kansas Board of Regents

Cynthia Lane

A member of the Kansas Board of Regents will resign her position next month to oversee a new literacy program that will operate under the direction of the Board of Regents.

Regent Cynthia Lane, a former K-12 educator and superintendent, has been named the first director of Kansas’ new Blueprint for Literacy program, which will focus on providing new methods for teachers across the state to teach reading and writing skills.

The program has aggressive goals, including that 85% of all fourth-graders in the state will be reading at or above the basic level by 2033. Currently less than 70% of Kansas students are reading at the basic level, according to Kansas assessment scores.

Elementary school teachers across the state may be significantly impacted by the new literacy program. The Regents have advocated for a new requirement that 100% of all elementary teachers in the state complete classes that will give them “micro credentials” in the topic of “science of reading,” which is an instruction philosophy that focuses on five pillars necessary for teaching students how to read.

Lane plans to resign from the Kansas Board of Regents, which is the governor-appointed board that oversees the state’s public universities, on June 24. She’ll begin as director of the literacy project immediately after her resignation, the Regents announced in a press release.

“I am honored to serve as the director of the Kansas Blueprint for Literacy,” Lane said in a release. “Learning to read and write well is fundamental to life’s success. The Blueprint provides a clearly marked path with practical steps to ensure our teachers have the tools and training needed to provide high-quality, evidence-based instruction. We are well-positioned to achieve our goals, working in partnership with the State Board and Department of Education, policy makers, teachers and administrators to help our students reach and exceed proficiency.”

The Kansas Legislature created the Blueprint for Literacy program and tasked the Board of Regents with hiring its director. As a Regent, Lane has been a champion of the program and has led many of the board’s literacy initiatives.

“She cares deeply about the success of all students and is committed to advancing teacher preparation, particularly in the area of literacy,” Regent Chair Jon Rolph said in the release. “Dr. Lane is an outstanding collaborator and leader, who will advance one of the most important and impactful investments we can make to help families, support businesses and advance economic prosperity for all Kansans.”

Lane, whose term on the Board of Regents was scheduled to end in June 2025, is the former superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, public school system. Lane retired from public education after a 40-year career in the field, which also included positions as a director of special education, an advocate for parents and a classroom teacher.

The literacy program is expected to be a major emphasis for the Regents and is likely to seek significant investments from the Kansas Legislature for years to come. As the Journal-World reported in February, the Regents estimated that over the next seven years the state will need to provide about $108 million in funding to implement the literacy program.

Some of that funding would be used to pay teachers a stipend of a few hundred dollars to complete the micro-credential program related to the science of reading. The funding proposal also calls for more than $5 million to be set aside for tuition for teachers who want to take their education further with graduate coursework in the science of reading.

In addition to the new teacher training requirements, which would be made a requirement for receiving a teaching license in the state, the plan has proposed several other initiatives. They include:

— Require all university students in Kansas seeking a degree in elementary education to take two sets of classes devoted specifically to the application of the science of reading teaching methods.

• Create six Centers of Excellence in Reading to be established at public universities, community colleges or other such locations. The centers would provide resources to teachers, and also would train “instructional coaches,” who would go back to their school districts and provide instruction to teachers there.

• Build a Literacy Education Simulation Training Lab. The lab would have actual students who would be taught by teachers who are learning the science of reading methods. The lab would be staffed by master teachers who would help provide instruction to students while also working with the teachers.

• Creation of a new Literacy Advisory Committee, which would oversee plans to improve statewide literacy.

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