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September 26, 2003, Extra Credit
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September 26, 2003
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Missouri Education Official: Reading First Grant Is "Crucial" And "Will Help Those Who Need The Help The Most"

Following are excerpts from an article in today's Kansas City Star:

"Missouri's efforts to ensure that disadvantaged students can read well by third grade got a $108 million boost Thursday from the federal government. The Department of Education grant will go toward implementing the Reading First initiative over the next six years. Districts with a large number of struggling readers will compete for the money, which can be used to hire reading coaches and offer additional teacher training. Reading First is a phonics-based program that emphasizes vocabulary and comprehension skills for kindergarten through third-graders. The program is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which calls for every student to be proficient in reading by 2014. Missouri will receive $29.2 million immediately, becoming the 43rd state to receive part of the more than $1 billion set aside for the program in 2003."

"'What works is holding all kids to high expectations,' [U.S. Department of Education General Counsel Brian Jones] said. 'Reading First is making sure around the country we are doing what works and not pursuing the latest fad.' As Kent King, Missouri's education commissioner, accepted an oversized check, [Satchel Paige Elementary School] students craned their necks. They gasped 'wow' upon seeing the $108 million figure. King said school districts—including Kansas City and St. Louis—that have 30 percent or more of their students in the bottom two of five categories on the state communication arts test may compete for Reading First money. 'Reading can take you anywhere. Without it, you can go nowhere,' he said. 'This grant is crucial to us to meet the expectations of No Child Left Behind....It will help those who need the help the most.'"

"Both King and Alexa Pochowski, Kansas' assistant education commissioner, praised the Reading First program, particularly for its diagnostic and assessment components. 'It is really dedicated to reading early on and making a difference,' Pochowski said. 'It is very specific.' This year, Missouri is slated to receive $195 million in federal Title I money, the biggest source of funding to meet requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The state will receive $7 million more to develop additional tests as required by the law. Kansas will get $87 million in Title I funds this year and receive $5 million more to develop additional tests. Both states receive added millions in federal aid, including money that is used to subsidize student meals, but those figures weren't available Thursday afternoon."

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