Standards/Content Areas

Kentucky Reading Academies

Published: 10/17/2022 11:46 AM


​Empowering kindergarten through grade five teachers to improve student literacy through evidence-based professional learning 

Why Early Literacy?​​​​​

A child’s ability to read is a critical predictor of both educational and lifelong success. Students must have every opportunity to gain and strengthen this skill, and teachers must be equipped and empowered in the teaching of reading to best support their students. To support this goal, the Kentucky Department of Education is launching a new, exciting partnership, called the Kentucky Reading Academies, which brings the LETRS, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, professional learning opportunity to educators across the commonwealth. 

Through LETRS, teachers gain essential knowledge to master the fundamentals of literacy instruction required to transform student learning and create a more vibrant experience for each and every young reader.​

Interested in Learning More?

View the recording of the informational webinar​ to learn more. ​


The Kentucky Reading Academies will be implemented in three phases starting in Fall 2022, beginning with 2,400 educators (K-5). ​​

A Systematic Approach

We strongly encourage a systemic approach wherein the entire school/district staff; entire vertical and/or horizontal professional learning communities; and administrators participate together. We recognize that participating in this systemic training will take time. Therefore, we encourage leaders to work thoughtfully to outline the best plan for their building/district. Yet, we will allow for maximum flexibility needed for participation: Individual teachers may choose to participate. ​

The KDE is committed to supporting the success of this initiative. Districts and schools with a commitment to building sustainability may reach out to Christie Biggerstaff, Director of Early Literacy, at, for additional information on the Kentucky Reading Academies. 

The 2-Year LETRS PL Course of Study

Each cohort group will engage in professional learning over two years and cover eight professional learning units on topics essential for literacy instruction, including phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and assessment. Each unit will include asynchronous, self-paced study and six hours of facilitator-led learning. Participants must commit to completing the full two-year cour​se and will devote approximately an hour each week plus six hours for each unit for live training to complete the program.  

Year 1 - Volume 1, Units 1-4. A PDF that includes table of unit dates and topics is available in the linked two-year course text

Year 2- Volume 2, Units 5-8. A PDF that includes table of unit dates and topics is available in the linked two-year course text.

Opportunity for Kentucky LETRS-Certified Facilitators

After completion of LETRS Volume 1, Unit 4, it is possible to continue training for facilitator certification. More information is available in the Opportunity for Kentucky LETRS-Certified Facilitators document.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this initiative needed?

The impact of COVID-19 has been pronounced among early learners, for whom development of reading and writing skills is critical to success in all subjects and later grades. As research indicates, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to not finish high school. 

K-PREP grade three reading data reveals that Kentucky has been losing ground in reading achievement since 2017, and as a result, there is an urgent need to address reading growth. Specifically, in 2019, approximately 50 percent of Kentucky’s third graders did not score at or above proficiency in reading.

Additionally, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal the downward trend in grade 4 reading results, leaving Kentucky ranked 23rd in the nation, based on 2018-2019 data. Most alarmingly, 33% of Kentucky students scored below basic on the 4th grade assessment in reading. 

While teachers are the most essential factor in student success, only 49 percent of teaching institutions nationally effectively prepare teachers for literacy instruction. To counteract unfinished learning and improve the trajectory for student outcomes, KDE is offering professional learning reading academies for K-5 educators.  

What is the research base for this initiative? 

LETRS is an evidence-based training that provides professional learning grounded in reading research for educators. The reading research represents a body of comprehensive and multi-disciplinary evidence for how students learn to read and write proficiently, why some students struggle and how educators can teach and intervene, if necessary. 

Are teachers required to participate?

Participation is not required by the KDE, but there are numerous benefits for participating. The Kentucky Reading Academies will help educators utilize evidence-based approaches to reading and writing instruction designed to improve reading and writing proficiency. Because reading and writing proficiently are building blocks to success in future grades and courses and in postsecondary pursuits, the Reading Academies will provide educators with the tools needed to help students be successful lifelong readers and writers. Thus, teachers are strongly encouraged to participate. ​

Will training sessions be live or virtual?

Most participants will have half of the training sessions in person and the other half in a virtual setting. Participants also can select training sessions in the evenings or on weekends.

Why should teachers participate in the Kentucky Reading Academies?

Participating educators will be equipped with evidence-based professional learning on HOW students learn to read that can be used and applied in their classrooms throughout their careers. ​

What should participants expect?

Participants will spend time each week in asynchronous instruction, including videos and independent reading and will apply information from the week’s lesson through an activity with their students and complete short checks for understanding. Participants should plan to spend approximately an hour each week on these activities. At the end of each unit, which will take 6-8 weeks to complete, educators will complete the unit assessment and attend training with a facilitator to reinforce content from that unit. ​

How can districts encourage participation and ensure their teachers’ success in this professional learning series?

Districts may encourage groups of educators to participate together, allowing time in Professional Learning Communities to reflect on their learning. Districts also may choose to offer a stipend, or honorarium, to teachers who complete all requirements of the Reading Academies with federal relief funds (ESSER I, II and III). Title II, Part A, funds may be an option IF general funds are not available and IF the training meets an identified need and is outside of the instructional day. District funds also may be used to further the initiative to additional grade levels. Interested educators should check with their district for specific information. 

For information about federal coronavirus relief funding, please see the American Rescue Act FAQs.

For questions about the Kentucky Reading Academies, contact Christie Biggerstaff, Director of Early Literacy, at​​.

​​​Who is eligible to register?

Kentucky Reading Academies are for educators who teach reading or work with K-5 students in Kentucky public schools (e.g., general and special education teachers, reading specialists, administrators, and those who teach English Learners (EL) or in Title 1 schools). 

How can educators register for the academies?

Registration for Phase 1 of the Kentucky Reading Academies is now closed. Phase 1 participants do not need to register for Phase 2. 

Participants who are interested in completing Phase 2 of the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) fully funded, state-wide professional learning are encouraged to complete this form. You will be the first to be notified that the formal registration for Phase 2 of the Kentucky Reading Academies is open and receive periodic information and updates. ​​

Kentucky LETRS Website

Senate Bill 9 (2022) Implementation Timeline

Senate Bill 9 (2022), the Read to Succeed Act, contains an emergency clause, which allows the bill to become law effectively immediately upon its signing by the governor. The Senate B​ill 9 Implementation Timeline document provides further guidance around what needs to be implemented when.

Support from KDE Leadership

“We are excited about what this means for Kentucky. Collaboration between districts, schools, administrators and teachers is essential for success. By providing this high-quality, evidence-based professional learning opportunity, we are providing every student the opportunity for a successful and productive life: This is the vision of United We Learn and is key to the future of our Commonwealth.”

-Jason E. Glass, Ed.D., Kentucky Commissioner of Education

"Kentucky educators deserve access to ongoing support in building early readers, writers and communicators who will be prepared to meet the future demands of college and career. Research demonstrates a positive link between high-quality professional learning, teaching practices and student outcomes. Effective professional learning not only has the potential to improve both classroom instruction and student outcomes, but also it can be effective in recruiting and retaining teachers."

-Micki Ray, Chief Academic Officer, Office of Teaching and Learning

Micki Ray Headshot

​"Kentucky's state reading data shows that we are losing the race centered around one of our most precious assets - literacy. It is the foundation on which our children's futures are built. Our children deserve the very best. The teachers and staff throughout Kentucky are phenomenal, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are ca​pable and ready to take back the lead with respect to early literacy."

-Christie Biggerstaff, Director of Early Literacy


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