The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Mobile Register (AL) highlighting how students in Mobile County are benefiting from reading programs funded by a No Child Left Behind Reading First grant:
Students at the [Calcedeaver Elementary School] are the 14th-best readers in Alabama and the top readers in Mobile County, according to the state Department of Education. One hundred percent of the school's kindergarten and first-graders read at or above grade level, and that's including special-education students
Reading has improved drastically at the Calcedeaver since August 2003, when the school adopted the Alabama Reading First Initiative
Federal grants connected to the No Child Left Behind Act pay for Reading First, while the state pays for the Alabama Reading Initiative
The programs operate on the same principles: Students sound out words phonetically. They read aloud to their teacher regularly. And each school gets at least one reading coach to give personalized instruction to struggling readers. For a school to participate, teachers must agree to attend summer training
In the summer ahead, teaching staffs at 212 more schools will be trained for the Alabama Reading Initiative, including nine in Mobile County and three in Baldwin County, officials said. That will leave only 150 elementary schools statewide that don't have either program.
State education officials are trying to secure funding to launch the Alabama Reading Initiative at those remaining schools for the 2006-07 academic year
Nine of Mobile County's top 10 reading schools, with poverty levels averaging 85 percent in their student bodies, participate in one or both initiatives.
State officials said that the initiatives have proved especially successful in poverty schools and schools with high numbers of minority students, two demographics that No Child Left Behind seeks to reach.
Robbins Elementary Principal Janese Sanders said she knows the Alabama Reading Initiative is working and wonders at her Mobile school, where just about every student is poor and black. Students there fall just below par with the state, with 76 percent of them reading at grade level, but scores are rising.
We don't start on the same level playing field as everybody else, Sanders said. We have to let teachers know that we have to do it and we can do it.
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