DESE's Literacy Initiatives & Efforts

Missouri Read, Lead, Exceed

Missouri Read, Lead, Exceed Initiative

DESE is excited to announce a new initiative to support evidence-based literacy instruction focused on the Science of Reading. The Missouri Read, Lead, Exceed initiative is the state's comprehensive plan to dedicate just over $35 million in federal relief funding to support student literacy. As part of this plan, up to 15,000 K-3 classroom teachers could receive training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS®). This course of study gives teachers the skills needed to teach language and literacy to every student by providing in-depth training in the Science of Reading. K-3 classroom teachers will receive this training at no cost to them or their local education agency (LEA).

This opportunity for LETRS® training provides sustained and job-embedded professional learning. Teachers will develop evidence-based foundational knowledge and skills to deliver explicit and systematic instruction focused on phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language that positively affect long-term systemic change in literacy outcomes. Nearly 4,000 Missouri educators have already participated in LETRS® training offered by DESE, their Regional Professional Development Centers (RPDCs), and/or LEA and have responded with excitement and positive feedback.

Why is this Important?

  • Aligning instruction with the science of reading gives students the best chance of becoming successful readers.
  • The creation and development of connections in our brains, created primarily through instruction, is necessary for reading.
  • Regardless of the textbook or instructional materials used, if the teacher does not have the knowledge of evidence-based practices and standards, all students will not acquire what is needed to learn.







Training Registration Information

We are pleased to announce that 4th and 5th grade classroom teachers are now eligible to register for the Missouri Read, Lead, Exceed LETRS Training! Pre-registration for August 2022 cohorts has closed, and we are now taking pre-registrations for October 2022 cohorts. Please use the following link to pre-register for the Read, Lead, Exceed LETRS Training by Friday, September 16, 2022. Once pre-registration is complete, the district’s local Regional Professional Development Center will contact teachers to schedule the training dates.

For questions about LETRS® training availability, contact your local RPDC or Heather Knight, Director of Literacy, at

Additional DESE Literacy Information

English Language Development (ELD) instruction is designed specifically to advance English learners (ELs) knowledge and use of English in increasingly sophisticated ways. In the context of the larger effort to help English learners succeed in school, ELD instruction is designed to help them learn and acquire English to a level of proficiency that maximizes their capacity to engage successfully in academic studies taught in English.

Although there might be multiple goals for ELD instruction—engaging in social interactions inside and outside of school and in other pursuits requiring English proficiency (e.g., obtaining news, serving as a juror, voting, shopping, banking, and locating and using information)—we would argue that preparation for academic studies taught in English remains the top priority because of its relevance to school and career success. Helping ELs succeed in academic contexts is no doubt the most challenging goal and most likely the greatest need to emerge in recent English learner research.

The Missouri Early Learning Standards (MELS) are a framework of expectations for what children can do from infancy to kindergarten entry. Each standard includes a description of what the child may be doing to demonstrate meeting the standard, as well as, activities to give adults examples of ways to support the child in learning and mastering a skill or knowledge.

The MELS provides a comprehensive set of early childhood educational expectations for children’s development and learning in all developmental areas, including language and early literacy skills. Visit the Early Learning Standards webpage for a copy of the full document, an informational video, and other resources to support the use of the MELS in your early learning program.

A division of DESE, Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) provides free virtual and face-to-face classroom instruction to eligible Missouri citizens in Reading, Language, Mathematics, English Language Competency, Workplace Literacy, Digital Literacy, Civics, and Citizenship. All classes are taught by certified instructors. Adult students receive preparation for Missouri’s High School Equivalency exam (HiSET®) integrated with career specific workforce training. English learners become literate in the English language while learning the responsibilities of citizenship and workforce preparation.

The purpose of DESE AEL is to assist adults to become literate, attain their high school equivalency (which is the HiSET® in Missouri), obtain employment, and to become self-sufficient. In addition, the programs assist parents in obtaining educational skills necessary to become full partners in the education of their children as well as assist those students learning English to become literate and understand the responsibilities of citizenship in the United States.