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June 28 2005 Extra Credit
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June 28, 2005

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“No One Thought We'd Get These Kinds of Results”

No Child Left Behind's Early Reading First program supports preschools and early childhood education providers -- especially those who serve children from low-income families -- so that the children they serve will start kindergarten with the foundational skills necessary to become successful readers. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer highlighting how children are benefiting from an Early Reading First grant:

“Teacher Maria Louisa Aguilera opens a student's portfolio and points to the signs of success -- a neatly executed alphabet penned by a small hand, her first and last name written out correctly, a worksheet with the names of vegetable seeds written next to them. The 5-year-old will move from preschool at El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill to kindergarten this fall with a solid foundation to begin school.

“That's the goal of Early Reading First, part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Seattle Early Reading First program was started two years ago, and those working with it say they're surprised by its efficacy.

“ ‘It's pretty amazing,’ said Sonja Griffin, the city of Seattle employee who manages the program. ‘No one thought we'd get these kinds of results. We thought we'd be referring kids to special ed because we'd identify language delays. Instead, we're catching kids who are successful and hopefully will be on a gifted track.’

“Testing and monitoring are critical components. Children are assessed a month after starting the program, which runs all year, and individual learning plans are developed for each child. Parents sign off on the plans and meet with teachers twice a year to discuss their children's progress.

“Test results show that when starting Early Reading, just 66 percent of children overall met the age-appropriate benchmarks on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, a standardized oral language assessment. After a year in the program, 93 percent met the standard. Similarly, 94 percent met the age-appropriate benchmark on the Woodcock and Munoz Language Survey, which measures language proficiency in children learning English as a second language.”

“The idea, [Hilda] Magana, [director of the El Centro program] said, is to teach children prereading skills by accommodating their myriad learning styles. Since many of the El Centro children are Latino, the program is bilingual. Words posted around the room are written in both Spanish and English, and the children move comfortably between the two languages, reading and singing songs in both.”

“Aimed primarily at low-income children, the Early Reading First program adds an extra layer of literacy instruction onto existing preschool programs and focuses on four areas of development -- social and emotional, cognitive, language acquisition and motor skills.”

“Now in its second year, Seattle's $3 million, three-year grant pays for extra teaching staff, classroom materials, a literacy specialist who works with each site, a kindergarten coordinator who helps parents select schools and fill out paperwork, and literacy-focused courses for teachers at Shoreline Community College. The city hopes to continue the program and plans to apply for another grant when this one expires.”

“Efforts at closing the achievement gap between different groups of children have increasingly highlighted the educational disadvantage many children start school with. U.S. Department of Education statistics show that children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds have been exposed to 45 million words on average, while children from poor families are typically exposed to 13 million.”

The complete text of this article is available online.

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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: 06/28/2005