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Reading Success: Reading First

May 25, 2005

To improve student achievement, instruction must improve. This requires quality staff development, participative leadership and some external facilitation that act as trainers, coaches, facilitators, consultants and colleagues using research-based content and strategies in a structure to accelerate the achievement of all students.

The Quality Learning Reading Team assumes the leadership role of external facilitator to help improve student achievement as it provides technical assistance to the teachers supplying the theory, demonstration, practice, collaboration, implementation and evaluation structure for the study of and improvement of literacy in schools.

In 2000, the National Reading Panel issued a report that responded to a Congressional mandate to identify the essential skills and components needed to teach reading. The National Reading Panel Report reviewed findings and identified methods that consistently related to reading success, including systematic and explicit instruction in the five essential components of reading instruction which include:

  • Phonemic awareness: The ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.
  • Phonics: Helps students learn the relationships between the letters of written language and sounds of the spoken language
  • Fluency: The ability to read with accuracy, expression, and comprehension at an appropriate rate
  • Vocabulary: The words we must know to communicate effectively through speaking and reading/writing
  • Text comprehension: The ability to understand the meaning of what is read

The Reading First program, a national effort to support states to improve reading for all students K-3, is supported by AEA 9. There are six Elementaries in the Davenport CSD and Columbus Elementary School which participate in the Reading First grant. These sites have implemented the strategies proven to be effective through the Reading First Program and have received remarkable success in teaching reading as evidenced by greatly improved scores on their ITBS tests, ranging from 1% (from schools which had previously made significant gains in 03-04) to gains of 24%.

The Iowa Professional Development Model is followed for process of building capacity of the teachers who improve classroom instruction for student achievement. The Quality Learning Reading Team [QLRT] provides technical support for the administration and teachers of the participating elementary schools, including the following:

  • Delivery of high-quality, relevant professional development providing knowledge of the rationale and the research base of the strategies, demonstration of the strategies and help in supporting their implementations in the classroom setting.
  • Assistance to teachers in collecting, organizing and analyzing student performance through classroom reading assessment data and implementation data to identify implications for instruction
  • Participation in state-wide accountability and school leadership structures to aid sites in building self-sustaining capacity which supports teachers to use scientifically based instructional programs, materials and instruction; valid and reliable screening, diagnostic and on-going classroom assessments to meet the individual needs of students in their endeavors to become good readers.

The AEA 9 QLRT devotes its time to supporting all of the reading efforts of the districts with which we work. Reading First is a highly effective program which when followed with fidelity builds a learning community engaged in studying literacy and produces improvement in student achievement in literacy. Because of the success of the program and its design, the AEA 9 QLRT will be conducting the AEA 9 Reading Initiative for both elementary and secondary schools in 2005-2006., using a similar structured school improvement approach which includes implementation of school improvement using scientific reading research directed at student achievement. If you would like further information on involving your district in the AEA 9 Reading Initiative, contact Shelley Frost at 563.344.6312.

Put Reading First, National Institute for Literacy, CIERA
Every Child Reads, the Phoenix Alliance, Emily Calhoun
Fluency, Jerry Johns and Roberta Berglund

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