LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Universal Pre-K Literacy Integration For Teachers (UPLIFT)

UPLIFT will be a program aimed at teaching literacy skills in Universal Prekindergarten classrooms through inclusive arts integration. The scaffolded curriculum will guide students through the California Common Core Prekindergarten Language Arts Standards using fun and interactive visual and performing arts activities (acting, painting, singing, and more!). Our methodology will be suitable for English Language Learners as well as Special Education classrooms due to its focus on asset-based instruction and social-emotional learning.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles


In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g., using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

California currently has the lowest literacy rate in the country and is undergoing a dramatic expansion of its Prekindergarten programs - by 2025, any local education agency operating a Kindergarten must also provide a TK (Transitional Kindergarten) program for all 4-year-olds. This means that "by 2025-26, regardless of background, race, zip code, immigration status, or income level, every child will have access to TK as a quality learning experience the year before Kindergarten." Many schools who have previously only served children aged 5 and up will now need to create new classes, hire new staff, and design developmentally appropriate programming for 4-year-olds, a group with unique learning needs both academically and socially. It is imperative that these classes prepare students for a lifetime of learning by emphasizing literacy skills, as reading correlates to emotional intelligence, social skills, self-esteem, higher future earning potential, and housing security, among others.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

UPLIFT will be a program aimed at increasing literacy in Universal Prekindergarten classes through inclusive arts integration. Our approach is ideally suited to this population, particularly in the Preschool for All Learners program - children 3 to 5 years of age who have been identified with federal and/or state defined special education eligibility. Our highly-specialized team of teaching artists with early-childhood-education backgrounds will create a sequential unit that uses music, theater, movement, and visual arts activities to teach basic literacy skills. The activities will be student-centered and interactive; rather than relying on cookie-cutter worksheets and instructional videos, they will unfold as a series of play-based arts strategies encouraging student leadership, creativity, and collaboration. We are confident that the inclusive and responsive nature of our approach will provide a developmentally appropriate and engaging course of study. Once the curriculum is complete, we will begin a pilot program to evaluate its effectiveness in a local public school - our current partners include Los Angeles Unified School District, Pasadena USD, Torrance USD, Paramount USD, and Lynwood USD. We will engage with administrators and stakeholders to determine the ideal site, as well as enlist an independent research team to study its impact - we have existing relationships with Loyola Marymount University and UCLA, and are eager to engage with an evaluator for this project.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our goal is to lead to an industry-wide shift in how Prekindergarten students with diverse learning needs develop literacy skills through arts integration. Inclusive arts experiences from a young age help students develop their social-emotional competencies, which in turn leads to academic success and personal flourishing. Students with such arts-education access and literacy skills are supported in graduating from high school and are able to bring their full lived experiences and contribute to society in ways we can only dream of. In the first year, we aim to create an inclusive, effective, and scaffolded curriculum that leads to a statistically significant increase in literacy skills for our students. To scale the program, we will then incorporate feedback from all stakeholders, including student participants, teachers, administrators, and evaluators and use our culturally responsive and holistic approach to adjust the curriculum in order to best serve LA County moving forward.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

UPLIFT draws on the methodology from Everyday Arts for Special Education, which confirmed that arts increase student engagement, in turn driving academic learning. Of participating students, 75% demonstrated increased motivation, attention span, self-confidence and positive risk-taking, while 84% mastered communications goals indicated in their Individual Education Plan (U.S. Department of Education-funded results from the Investing In Innovation research study 2010-15 and Professional Development for Arts Educators research study 2014-18). For young learners, increased motivation and attention span are prerequisites for academic success; it is therefore our belief that UPLIFT will lead to significant improvement in literacy goals. Our success is also measured by educator participation: we administer surveys which track teachers' comfort leading arts activities, frequency with which they integrate arts, ability to integrate social-emotional learning, and student engagement levels.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 120

Indirect Impact: 30,000