Friday, April 9, 2010

What Is A Successful Reading Program?

In 1994, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released showing that fourth-grade students in California and Louisiana were tied for last place among the fifty states in reading achievement. This event led to yet another round of overemphasis on some components of reading instruction at the expense of others. Two years ago Alabama made an 8 point jump in scores, making it the state with the most gains ever for the NAEP assessment. In 2009, Alabama maintained their scores, even with the test being more challenging. This simply proved that 2007 scores were not a fluke. What has made the difference in Alabama reading instruction? Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI)
1. Alabama took the federal "No Child Left Behind" funding and trained every elementary teacher in research based reading instruction and intervention for struggling reader. (ARI)

2. Alabama hired a "reading coach" which is stationed at every elementary school in the state.

3. The reading coaches are trained extensively in using research base curriculum and go into each classroom and observe, model, co-teach, plan, and make sure the reading instruction is being implemented correctly. The state also made sure every school adopted a strong research base reading curriculum.

4. Alabama has determined that every classroom K-3, set aside 90 minutes of reading instruction and small group instruction. Another 30 minutes is for working with at-risk readers and students who did not understand the concept of that day.

5. Teachers meet and plan together to make sure all children are getting quality instruction.

6. All students, K-3, are monitored to see fluency progress, or the rate of reading words aloud. If a child is at-risk, that child will meet at least once a week with the teacher to read aloud and practice fluency. If a child is reading moderately well, the teacher will listen to that child read every other week. If a child is reading on or above grade level, the teacher will listen to that child read once a month. This individual attention has improved reading and the monitoring gives the teacher the information of what needs to be done.

7. The reading coach collects the monthly data and there are monthly meetings with the principal, reading coach, support instructional staff, and teachers by grade levels to discuss what best methods should be used to improve any child of concern. This team effort has changed the environment of the school building into a cooperative effort to improve all children.

8. There are teams formed that "walk through" every classroom and look for best practices that can be shared with the rest of the staff. Lesson plans, reading scores, and centers are observed so improvements can be suggested and implemented.

9. There are 3 oral fluency test given to each child throughout the year and the data is reported to the principals, central office, and state department. This keeps everyone informed as to how each school in the state is doing.

10. Training is ongoing for principals, reading coaches, and teachers. Research has shown that good instruction and training for the teacher and support from the principal makes all the difference in student improvement. Alabama's Reading Initiative is proof that it works!


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