Hey Congressman, Read(ing First) Me

As this is Eduflack’s de facto Reading First week (I know, how is this week any different than the others), I thought I would share a very interesting and powerful document that has just passed our desk.  Any reader knows that Eduflack has refused to accept the premature demise of Reading First. Here at the National Reading First Conference, there are thousands upon thousands of educators who share that view.

Now we have an open letter to Congress from Steve Underwood, who has been running RF point out in Idaho.  For those in the dark, Idaho is one of the great RF success stories.

I’ll let the letter speak for itself.


July 27, 2008

Honorable Members of Congress:

Early reading skills are very closely matched to the lifelong ability to read.  This is why Reading First targeted Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.  Reading First has been tremendously successful throughout the nation over the course of the past few years and is worthy to receive continued funding and support.

Reading First is a school improvement model that works at many different levels to improve the practices among schools that have traditionally had significant struggles in teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds how to read at an early age. Two very large obstacles must be overcome in this process of school improvement: 1) the professional knowledge of teachers, principals, and other district leadership, and 2) the emotional challenge involved with the significance of what is known as “second-order change” (e.g., not simply minor adjustments in practice and systems of organizations, but large-scale change).To have the knowledge without the second-order change, or vice versa, does not result in a changed school nor in the improvement Thus, these processes of change are at the root of Reading First, making it a very worthy, but difficult task.

Despite these two very large obstacles, the Reading First model has succeeded in causing monumental changes in student performance throughout the United States over the course of the past five years.  Traditionally, large scale improvement in reading achievement is not seen in overall populations or in subpopulations.  This is the very reason for Reading First.  Therefore, it is significant when we see Reading First populations, which are made up of thousands of students, improving by even as much as 5%.  However, when improvements of 10-20+% are seen, it is unheard of.  This is exactly what is happening in Reading First schools and states.

In Idaho, for example, we have seen tremendous gains in student achievement over the past five years.  Here are a few of the highlights.


 






































Idaho 2002-2007: Fluency


Gain in Percentage of Proficient Students


Kindergarten


All Students


+21%


Grade 1


All Students


+12%


Grade 2


All Students


+7%


Grade 3


All Students


+7%


Kindergarten


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+22%


Grade 1


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+25%


Grade 2


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+20%


Grade 3


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+17%


 
The significance of the growth happening can been seen especially when comparing Reading First schools to the rest of the state.  In Idaho, all students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 take the same fluency test, regardless of participation in Reading First.  Here is a chart that demonstrates the difference in growth in just one year (SY 2007-2008) when comparing Reading First (RF) schools’ fluency gains to the state of Idaho (State) as a whole.  Please note that all RF grades are greater in gains than the State, with the exception of Grade 2 which is equal.  Particularly noteworthy are the very large gains in achievement in Kindergarten and Grade 1 which are nearly double that of the State. 

(Editor’s Note: The original letter contains a power graph, that tracks the following in Idaho
GRADE                                        Non-RF Gain                        RF Gain
Kindergarten                                    +16                                    +30
First Grade                                         +17                                    +28    
Second Grade                                   +7                                       +7
Third Grade                                        +10                                    +13


 


Similar improvements are seen in comprehension assessments, especially when looking at economically disadvantaged students who are at the very core of the Reading First model.  The following diagram illustrates the vast improvements among this subpopulation of Idaho’s students. 


 


















Idaho 2002-2007: Comprehension


Gain in Percentage of Proficient Students


Grade 1


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+20%


Grade 2


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+24%


Grade 3


Economically Disadvantaged (Low-SES)


+22%



Between the requirement to report data for comprehension and fluency which is disaggregated by many subpopulations, there are 18 data points per state per year per cohort.  States often have 3 cohorts.  That creates about 54 data points per state per year.  It is true that not all 54 points are improving in every state every year.  If they were, this would be nothing less than miraculous.  However, many data points are moving in very significant ways.  This shows the success of the Reading First model.  The chart below gives a synopsis of many such improvements occurring in the Western region of the United States based on both the US Department of Education Annual Performance Data for Reading First and data collected and shared in a report given by the Western Regional Reading First Technical Assistance Center in April, 2008.  It is by no means a comprehensive summary of the improvements; it simply highlights some of the significant growth occurring in this school improvement model.


 












































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































State


Grade


Students[i]


Improvement


Reported Measure[ii]


Timeframe


Alaska


1st


All


+9%


Fluency


2004-2007


Alaska


2nd


All


+14%


Fluency


2004-2007


Alaska


3rd


All


+10%


Fluency


2004-2007


American Samoa


1st


All


+2%


Fluency


2004-2006


American Samoa


2nd


All


+5%


Fluency


2004-2006


American Samoa


3rd


All


+12%


Fluency


2004-2006


Arizona


3rd


All


+13%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Arizona


3rd


All


+25%


Fluency


2004-2007


Bureau of Indian Education


1st


All


+4%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


2nd


All


+6%          


Comprehension


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


3rd


All


+6%          


Comprehension


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


K


All


+11%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


1st


All


+18%


Fluency


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


2nd


All


+11%       


Fluency


2004-2006


Bureau of Indian Education


3rd


All


+21%       


Fluency


2004-2006


California


“Since 2002, Grades 2, 3, and 4 teachers and students in high implementation Reading First schools have outperformed all non-Reading First schools in the increase of the percent of proficient scores” on the California Standards Test (E. Jankowski, WRRFTAC Western States Directors Meeting, April, 2008).


California


2nd


All


+22%


Comprehension


2002-2007


California


3rd


All


+12%


Comprehension


2002-2007


California


4th


All


+20%


Comprehension


2002-2007


Colorado


3rd


All


+11%


Comprehension


2005-2007


Colorado


1st


All


+20%


Fluency


Winter 2006-Winter 2008


Colorado


2nd


All


+13%


Fluency


Winter 2006-Winter 2008


Colorado


3rd


All


+12%


Fluency


Winter 2006-Winter 2008


Colorado


K


All


+16%


Fluency


Winter 2006-Winter 2008


Hawaii


3rd


All


+26%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Idaho


1st


Low-SES


+20%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Idaho


2nd


Low-SES


+24%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Idaho


3rd


Low-SES


+22%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Idaho


1st


Low-SES


+17%


Fluency


2004-2007


Idaho


2nd


Low-SES


+18%


Fluency


2004-2007


Idaho


3rd


Low-SES


+14%


Fluency


2004-2007


Minnesota


1st


All


+4%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Minnesota


2nd


All


+5%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Minnesota


3rd


All


+13%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Minnesota


1st


All


+6%


Fluency


2004-2007


Minnesota


2nd


All


+6%


Fluency


2004-2007


Minnesota


3rd


All


+4%


Fluency


2004-2007


Montana


4th


All


+8%


Comprehension


2003-2007


Montana


1st


All


+16%


Fluency


2004-2007


Montana


2nd


All


+16%


Fluency


2004-2007


Montana


3rd


All


+16%


Fluency


2004-2007


Montana


K


All


+18%


Fluency


2004-2007


Nebraska


2nd


All


+27%


Comprehension


2005-2007


Nebraska


3rd


All


+16%


Comprehension


2005-2007


Nebraska


1st


All


+20%


Fluency


2005-2007


Nebraska


2nd


All


+18%


Fluency


2005-2007


Nebraska


3rd


All


+24%


Fluency


2005-2007


Nevada


3rd


All


+1%


Comprehension (ITBS)


2005-2007


Nevada


3rd


ELL


+14%


Comprehension (ITBS)


2005-2007


Nevada


3rd


All


+15%


Comprehension (NV Crit. Rf. Test)


2005-2007


Nevada


3rd


ELL


+18%


Comprehension (NV Crit. Rf. Test)


2005-2007


Nevada


1st


All


+18%


Comprehension(ITBS)


2005-2007


Nevada


1st


ELL


+17%


Comprehension(ITBS)


2005-2007


Nevada


2nd


All


+11%


Comprehension(ITBS)


2005-2007


Nevada


2nd


ELL


+23%


Comprehension(ITBS)


2005-2007


New Mexico


1st


All


+21%


Fluency


2004-2007


New Mexico


2nd


All


+20%


Fluency


2004-2007


New Mexico


3rd


All


+19%


Fluency


2004-2007


New Mexico


K


All


+24%


Fluency


2004-2007


North Dakota


1st


All


+13%


Comprehension


2005-2007


North Dakota


2nd


All


+5%


Comprehension


2005-2007


North Dakota


3rd


All


+3%


Comprehension


2005-2007


North Dakota


1st


All


+28%


Fluency


2004-2006


North Dakota


2nd


All


+15%


Fluency


2004-2006


North Dakota


3rd


All


+51%


Fluency


2004-2006


Oregon


K


All


+23%


Alphabetic Principle


2004-2006


Oregon


1st


All


+14%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Oregon


1st


All


+15%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Oregon


2nd


All


+10%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Oregon


3rd


All


+4%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Oregon


2nd


All


+22%


Fluency


2003-2006


Oregon


3rd


All


+18%


Fluency


2003-2006


South Dakota


1st


All


+8%


Comprehension


2004-2006


South Dakota


2nd


All


+13%


Comprehension


2004-2006


South Dakota


3rd


All


+6%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Utah


1st


All


+18%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Utah


1st


ELL


+12%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Utah


2nd


All


+4%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Utah


2nd


ELL


+6%


Comprehension


2004-2007


Utah


3rd


All


+8%


Comprehension


2004-2006


Utah


1st


All


+19%


Fluency


2004-2007


Washington


4th


All


+23%


(*The entire state only gained 13% in same timeframe.)


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Washington


4th


Native American


+25%


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Washington


4th


Black


+20%


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Washington


4th


Asian


+31%


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Washington


4th


Hispanic


+28%


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Washington


4th


White


+15%


Comprehension (WASL)


2003-2007


Wyoming


3rd


All


+17%


Comprehension


2006-2007


Wyoming


1st


All


+26%


Fluency


2004-2007


Wyoming


2nd


All


+26%


Fluency


2004-2007


Wyoming


3rd


All


+25%


Fluency


2004-2007


Wyoming


K


All


+52%


Fluency


2004-2007


 


As is readily seen in this small sample of data from Idaho and other Western states, the Reading First model is making great strides in school improvement as in pertains to early literacy for our nation’s most needy children.  There are aspects at the school, district, state, and federal level that can be improved, but overall the program has been highly successful.  It is essential that the United States continue to provide this opportunity to our nation’s children by continuing what has worked well and improving upon the model for the future.


Sincerely,


Steve Underwood


Idaho Reading First Consultant







[i] All students or identified subpopulation.



[ii] Fluency or Comprehension: the two types of measures required for the annual performance report data due to the US Department of Education.

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