September 07, 2004 Extra Credit
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September 7, 2004

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September 3
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Early Reading First is Helping to "Level The Playing Field"

No Child Left Behind’s Early Reading First grant program supports preschools and early childhood education providers, especially those who serve children from low-income families, so that they can become preschool centers of educational excellence and the children they serve will arrive at kindergarten with the foundational skills necessary to become successful readers. The following are excerpts from an article on highlighting the progress of a Texas preschool program that is funded by an Early Reading First grant:

"Sebastian Wren, the Program Associate for Reading at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas, has been personally involved with INSPIRED, a very successful pre-school and day-care project in Round Rock Independent School District, Round Rock, Texas. Wren recently concluded, ‘Although they started out with different performance levels, by the end of the year, African American students, Caucasian students, and Hispanic students were performing approximately equally. Thus, there is some evidence that the INSPIRED project is helping to ‘level the playing field’ for disparate groups of students.’"

"Wren has summarized the project as follows: The preliminary assessments to ascertain individual reading and language skills were collected in the winter of 2003-2004. The pre-school and day-care teachers participating in the Round Rock INSPIRED project then received a substantial amount of training in instructional activities that support the development of early reading and language skills. By the end of the school year in 2004, students had made substantial gains in the various reading-related skills that were assessed. A total of 259 students were tested both in the winter and spring of the 03-04 school years in a variety of reading-related tasks, including name writing, concept of word, print knowledge, alphabet knowledge, verbal memory, rhyme awareness, and beginning sound awareness. …"

"Approximately half of the students who participated in the 03-04 INSPIRED Project were Hispanic, and in the winter, Hispanic students performed more poorly than Caucasian students on most of the reading-related tasks. By spring, both Caucasian students and Hispanic students had made significant gains, but the Hispanic students had made more dramatic gains, closing the gap with the Caucasian students. The same is true of the African American students who made up 11% of the student population."

"Catherine Davis is the coordinator for INSPIRED. She participated in the following Q & A:

"Question #1: What is the background on the grant and what are the expectations from the district?

"Answer #1: Round Rock Independent School District was one of thirty grants awarded in cycle two of the Early Reading First program. … As with all Early Reading First grants our goal is to provide intensive reading instruction that is grounded in scientifically based reading research as acknowledged by the National Reading Panel's report. We expect the children participating in our program will be ready to start kindergarten as well as if not better than their more economically advantaged peers. We want our children to learn to read on schedule."


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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