The Education Innovator #13
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 May 26, 2003 • Number 13
 Share this page Share this page
  Past issues
What's inside...
Reading Is Fundamental
What's New
NCES releases Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 1999; six grant competitions open; and Innovations in Education Exchange event May 29
Innovations in the News
Kansas City's racial achievement gap has narrowed, thanks in part to the expanded use of charter schools; plus articles on teacher quality; supplemental services; and school improvement.

Reading is Fundamental
We sometimes forget that established programs were once innovations. Reading Is Fundamental is such a program. Founded in 1966, the practices it has fostered for over 35 years have been proven by the latest scientific reading research. Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) engages children of all ages in activities to expand their literacy and spark their interest in reading. By providing new books to children through a series of different programs, RIF helps students in many communities, including those who are at high risk for education failure.

RIF is best known for its flagship effort, the National Book Program. The National Book Program motivates children, parents, and communities to read together through a series of principles: book ownership, motivational activities, and family involvement. The goals of this program are simple: provide new, free books to children, motivate children to read, and generate community support for literacy. This program is one that works to get all members of the community involved. The National Book Program is the oldest and largest of RIF's programs. It has distributed over five million books to children.

Shared Beginnings is another program that RIF supports. It is a program for both parent and child. Shared Beginnings helps young parents develop their children's early language and literacy skills. Parents are encouraged to read to their children, and the program conveys the importance of "nurturing" literacy. Parents receive practice in activities meant to foster early learning skills, thus giving them the confidence they need to continue to teach their children. Parents are excited by their children's learning and proud of their own achievement.

Other programs include Family of Readers, which focuses on family reading habits and enhancing the time families spend reading together. Running Start is a motivational program for first graders and builds on the excitement of first grade, when expectations for success are high. Running Start challenges students to read 21 books in 8-10 weeks. The goal is for parents to give children a burst of ambition at a crucial stage in their development as readers.

Lastly, Reading Is Fundamental encourages student-to-student mentoring programs. Through Books on the Menu, older children are paired with younger children as "book-mates". The overall mission is to increase the amount of time students spend reading and discussing books. Also, by building relationships between older and younger children, the confidence and self-esteem of the older child is increased.

The efforts of Reading Is Fundamental will continue with the introduction of two new programs, Club RIF and RIF Book Clubs. These two new pilot programs are being tested. Club RIF is a literacy program that pairs teens with younger children to create mentoring relationships and build program management skills among teens. RIF Book Clubs is an informal, read aloud program for young children designed to improve reading habits and involve adults in reading to a child.

Reading Is Fundamental works to engage children and their parents and to utilize all aspects of a child's environment—school, home, and community—to reinforce the value of literacy.

Reading Is Fundamental/Inexpensive Book Drive is funded by a contract directed by Congress and monitored by the Office of Innovation and Improvement. This contract covers 75 percent of the cost of the books, with the remainder obtained from private and local sources. For more information about RIF, go to: and For research findings on early cognitive development, go to For a booklet for parents based on the latest reading research, see


What's New
NCES releases Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 1999
The Department's National Center for Education Statistics has released a report, Trends in the Use of School Choice, which shows that the percentage of students enrolled in public schools of choice increased from 11 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 1999. In addition, parents whose children attended either public schools of choice or private schools were more likely to say they were satisfied with their children's schools, teachers, academic standards and order and discipline than were parents whose children attended public, assigned schools. To read the report, go to

Funding Opportunities
The Advanced Placement Incentives grant program opened on May 15. The applications for this program are due July 3, 2003. Incentive program grants are awarded to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, including charter schools that are LEAs, or national nonprofit educational entities to expand access to rigorous coursework for low-income students in grades 6-12. Funding will be used to prepare these students for success in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. For information on how to apply, go to

The Advanced Placement Test Fee grant program opened on May 16. The deadline for applications is June 30, 2003. Grants are awarded to State educational agencies to cover part or all of the cost of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test fees for low-income students. For information on how to apply, go to

The grant competition for Models in Arts Education opened May 15, and the competition for Professional Development for Arts Education opened May 16. The deadline for both competitions is July 10, 2003. The competitions are open to local education agencies, including charter schools that are LEAs, that collaborate with at least one of the following: an institution of higher education; a state education agency; or a public or private nonprofit agency with a history of providing high quality professional development to public schools. For more information about these competitions, see and

The Teaching American History grant competition remains open. The deadline is July 7, 2003. The competition is open to local education agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, in partnership with nonprofit history or humanities organizations. For information about how to apply, go to For a webcast with information about preparing the grant application package, go to

The competition is also open for the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program (deadline June 3). For the application and guidance, go to

OII invites you to the first event in the Innovations in Education Exchange Series. The panel discussion on "Exploring Virtual Schools" will be at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 29th in the U.S. Department of Education auditorium, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC. Contact to RSVP. If you cannot attend in person, a live web-cast of this event will be aired and then archived for future viewing. To link to the webcast on or after May 29, go to


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
In testimony Wednesday, education officials said that Kansas City's racial achievement gap has narrowed, thanks in part to the expanded use of charter schools. The district has succeeded in closing the achievement gap in nine of 12 categories and should be released from the mandates of a 1997 court case, officials said. [More-The Kansas City Star (Mo.)] (May 15)

Reading Is Fundamental
By the end of the school year, about 1,200 books will go home with students in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, because of the Reading Is Fundamental program sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club. [More-Times-Picayune] (May 15)

Teacher Quality
A program, sponsored by Strategic Grant Partners foundation, aims to attract math, science and special education teachers to the city and would provide a stipend and a loan toward a master's degree at the University of Massachusetts. [More-The Boston Globe] (May 16)

To meet the requirement to have highly qualified teacher aides in every classroom, Fort Worth school district administrators will present trustees with a four-option plan under which aides could work towards certification. One option under the plan would allow aides to work toward a college degree and receive partial reimbursement. [More-The Fort Worth Star-Telegram] (May 13)

Mid-career professionals are finding it easier to get on the fast track to teacher certification in Ohio. More and more colleges and universities view fast-track teacher certification as a lucrative way to augment their colleges of education. Local school districts, too, like the idea of mid-career teachers because they are likely to join the profession for the right reasons and bring other skills to the job. [More-The Cleveland Plain Dealer] (May 11)

Supplemental Services
Business is booming at private, for-profit learning centers, especially in urban and suburban areas, where parents regularly spend thousands per year for a tailor-made, supplemental learning program. [More- The Christian Science Monitor] (May 13)

Richmond, Virginia Community Schools and The Whitney Center will use Title 1 funds this summer to help elementary students improve their reading skills. Richmond schools and The Whitney Center, which provides diagnosis and remediation in the areas of reading and comprehension, have been approved by the state as supplemental services providers. [More-Richmond Palladium Item] (May 1)

School Improvement
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corp., is sending $11.3 million to Indianapolis to revamp how at-risk high school students are taught. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will give Indianapolis Public Schools $5.2 million to help transform its five high schools into smaller academies-within-a-school and help pay start-up costs to create new high schools. [More-The Indy Star] (May 14)

Fairfax County schools is exploring the possibility of launching a program that would give tax credits to businesses that allowed the district to open classrooms in their buildings. Officials say the plan would ease overcrowding in schools. [More- The Washington Post] (May 15)

Virtual School
Over the past two months, schools throughout Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore looked like mini-ghost towns: empty, silent classrooms, deserted hallways, and vacant playing fields. The steep escalation of people contracting the potentially fatal respiratory illness known as SARS forced many government and school officials in Asia to close school for more than 2 million students. Schools are gradually reopening, and, surprisingly, many students aren't behind academically. That's because while school buildings stood empty, students still attended classes—virtually. [More-Education Week] (May 21)

Print this page Printable view Bookmark  and Share
Last Modified: 04/26/2011