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Reading First Grant to Help Texas School District Improve Reading Skills

Ohanian Comment: This newspaper item arrived as an announcement from Extra Credit at the U. S. Department of Education, one more effort to put NCLB in a positive light.

The announcement raises a couple of questions. Schools are receiving "more than $780,000" to pump up reading instruction for approximately 800 children.

But these schools are already labelled Texas Exemplary School or Texas Recognized School so just what do these labels mean?

Another question: How will putting a child who persists in not reading on grade level on a computer help him read better?

Here is the most chilling sentence:

“We will be hiring literacy coaches at every elementary campus that will be working specifically with the teachers to coach them on the instructional strategies that they need to use to teach reading.”

Teachers tell me that coach has become a euphemism for enforcer. They patrol the halls, making sure that no teacher strays from the script.

LA MARQUE — Low reading scores on state assessment tests have the La Marque Independent School District changing the way elementary students are being taught to read.

A Texas Education Agency grant is providing the money to initiate those changes.

The school district has been awarded a TEA Reading First Grant to start an intensive reading program in kindergarten through third grade at Highlands, Inter-City and Westlawn elementary schools and the Early Childhood Learning Center.

The program is designed to help improve students’ reading skills and ultimately raise their state test scores.

The grant will provide the schools with more than $780,000 the first year. That amount will decrease each year the grant is renewed for a maximum of five years.

“The grant will be used to enhanced the (TEA) reading academy program that the schools are already using,” said May Carol Lieblong, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the school district. “We will be hiring literacy coaches at every elementary campus that will be working specifically with the teachers to coach them on the instructional strategies that they need to use to teach reading.”

The Reading First Program requires students to receive 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction a day. Every two weeks, the students must be formally tested to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

Students not reading on their grade level are eventually placed in the Voyager Program, where they will receive an additional 30 minutes of reading instruction a day.

“If students do not begin to show improvement after about a month in the Voyager Program, they will be put into a computer-assisted instruction program called Waterford,” Lieblong said. “They will remain in that program until they are reading on the grade level they should be.”

Lieblong said eligibility for the grant was based on state assessment scores from a few years ago.

Simms Elementary School did not qualify because its test scores were too high.

However, the school district is planning to use other grant funds to hire a literacy coach for the Simms campus, said Lieblong.

Literacy coaches will be teachers who have received TEA reading academy training and have successfully used it in their classrooms.

Coaches will monitor reading instruction in the classrooms and act as a resource for teachers.

Lieblong said most of the literacy coaches will be hired from within the La Marque school district.

— Rachel Hunter
Galveston County Daily News


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