Utah Investing Recovery Funds in Targeting, Improving Literacy Instruction Based on Data

Utah is using $12 million of its state set-aside from ESSER II to establish the  K-3 Early Professional Literacy Project. This effort will train Utah’s K-3 teachers, administrators, literacy coaches, and school psychologists in the science of literacy. The state is targeting districts on the basis of statewide reading assessment outcomes from 2020 and 2021. This should help ensure that schools with the greatest literacy needs will receive the most resources.

We are spotlighting this practice because one of the foundational steps to applying the science of reading is ensuring all educators are trained in this approach to literacy instruction. The state is also smartly using assessment data to target districts most in need.

Reviewer Analysis

The Education Trust

This is a best practice firstly because Utah is prioritizing a core subject area in which students experienced unfinished learning. In addition, Utah is prioritizing younger grades. In addition, Utah is using assessment results to target supports to students who have experienced the greatest amount of unfinished learning.


This is an excellent use of training funds to build knowledge and capacity for early educators and the science of reading. Targeting limited resources based on recent data is critical to pour those resources into areas where they are needed the most. Special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and English learner educators should be prioritized if additional funding is made available (unless the term “K-3 teachers” is already inclusive of those educators).

Jocelyn Pickford

An evidence-based focus on early literacy with the science of reading has been proven to help students in other states. Targeting funds to students most in need is the right approach.

New Leaders

Utah is using data and evidence-based practices to strategically address early literacy needs – excellent use of funds. Providing training for multiple roles (teachers, coaches, administrators, and psychologists) will help schools collectively improve student outcomes.

Leslie Villegas

To ensure this will benefit English learners, more information is needed about how teachers, administrators, literacy coaches, and school psychologists will be trained to integrate ELs’ linguistic and content needs.

The Data Quality Campaign

Utah’s plan relies on state data to assess need and on research to determine how to train educators based on best practices for learning. Utah’s plan uses data and evidence to both develop and deploy this initiative.

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