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January 24 2005 Extra Credit
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January 24, 2005

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Mesa, Arizona: Reading First “Dramatically” Improves Students’ Reading Skills

No Child Left Behind’s Reading First program provides grants to help schools and districts improve children’s reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction. The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Arizona Republic highlighting how students at a Mesa, AZ elementary school are benefiting from Reading First:

“Student scores on reading assessments have improved dramatically at one of the first Mesa elementary schools to implement the federally funded Reading First program. Less than 25 percent of 148 first-graders met the benchmark on a national reading test at Lowell Elementary School last year, and nearly half the students needed intensive instruction. This year, about half the students met the benchmark as second-graders.

“Administrators and teachers in the state’s largest school district credit much of the improvement to Reading First. The program provides federal dollars for schools with low-income students who have low test scores and allows teachers to give young elementary school students 90 minutes of intensive reading instruction each day. Staff members can increase that instruction time by an additional hour for those students who need it most.

“That might sound like a lot of time to spend on one subject - it’s nearly half the school day - but teachers like Patty Henry say the commitment is worth it. The 19-year Lowell veteran can see the improvement in her second-grade class. ‘It’s what these kids at this type of school need because the reading they get is here,’ Henry said.

“More than 90 percent of Lowell’s students are Hispanic, and many have parents who don’t speak English, which makes reading at home difficult, Henry said. ‘When it has to happen at school, we need to put more time into it,’ she said.

“That time has paid off, according to student performance on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test. It’s still a work in progress, school reading coach Renee Parker stressed, but the program is moving students in the right direction to succeed on yearly assessments and ultimately on the AIMS [Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards] test.”

The complete article is available from The Arizona Republic online archives for a fee.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2013