March 15, 2005 Extra Credit
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March 15, 2005

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Reading First Benefits Students at a Michigan Elementary School

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 Detroit News highlighting how students at a Westland, Michigan elementary are benefiting from Reading First:

"Children who have stories read to them do better in school and are better readers overall, according to numerous studies. And to encourage families to read together, Jefferson-Barns Elementary in Westland is celebrating Michigan Reading Month, including a recent Family Reading Night. The event celebrated the work of Dr. Seuss, and parents and their children enjoyed raffles and a visit from children's book character Clifford the Big Red Dog. Local officials such as Westland Mayor Sandra Cicirelli read to the children and their families, and every child went home with a book."

"Jefferson-Barns, along with three other Westland schools, benefits from a federal grant called Reading First, which is part of the No Child Left Behind legislation. It's designed to bring children up to reading at grade level by third grade.

"Parents and principals said even strong readers benefit from the Reading First approach. Teresa Worthy, whose daughter, Stephenie, is in third grade, said she is continually impressed by the vocabulary her daughter is building with the intensive reading instruction. She has also worked as an aide throughout the Wayne-Westland district, and can point to the importance of early reading intervention when she sees students struggling when they are older. ‘The time is well-served by spending that much time on reading,’ she said. ‘It's going to do nothing but help in other subjects.’"

"Early statewide test results show the program is making an impact. For example, third-graders reading at grade level went from 19 percent to 29 percent after the first year of the grant, based on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

"Reading First schools start off the day with two hours of reading work. Holuta said at Jefferson-Barns nothing is allowed to interrupt that time, not even school assemblies. Instruction focuses on vocabulary and breaks reading down to basic components. Students are grouped as in a traditional reading program, but those who are teetering on the brink of falling behind get specialized attention. Children who are struggling get an extra hour a day of reading instruction and those who are lagging slightly get an extra half-hour."

"Bringing the research-based Reading First approach into the classroom is effective in reaching even reluctant readers, [Jefferson-Barns Principal Michael] Holuta said. ‘Everything from there will follow through,’ he said."


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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: 01/31/2008