Reading First, a federal initiative designed to get all children reading by the end of third grade, has helped West Virginia schools improve student achievement by as much as 41 percent in two years, the greatest gain in the nation.
From 2004 to 2006, West Virginia’s 36 Reading First schools saw improvement across all subgroups, including economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, white students and African-American students.
First grade saw reading fluency increase 32 percent, compared to 16 percent nationally. In second grade, reading fluency scores in West Virginia improved by 36 percent, compared to 14 percent nationally. The largest gains were seen in third grade, where reading fluency improved 41 percent in Reading First schools, compared to 15 percent nationally.
“This is another opportunity to celebrate the successes in West Virginia schools,” said Board President Dr. Lowell Johnson. “From the beginning, we knew this program held great promise and now with have the data to support that.”
About 61 percent of the 6,434 West Virginia students helped by Reading First qualify for free and reduced lunch and 17 percent have disabilities. The success of the program has led the West Virginia Department of Education to develop plans to expand the program statewide next year. Two years remain on the federal grant. The state hopes maximize those funds and combine them with others to make the most of the program.
The $6 billion Reading First program was created in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act to improve reading instruction from kindergarten through third grade. The program offers intensive reading help for low-income children in the early grades.
Reading First requires states to set up competitive grant programs for low-performing, high-poverty schools that require them to use scientifically based instructional techniques and assessments that are valid, reliable and administered in a timely manner. Schools selected as Reading First schools undergo massive professional development, which in turn aids student achievement. U.S. Department of Education officials announced on July 21, 2003, that West Virginia would receive nearly $44 million over six years to administer the Reading First program in the Mountain State. The funds have been granted to 21 counties: Calhoun, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Hampshire, Hardy, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Roane, Summers, Tucker, Upshur and Wetzel. Four additional counties were added last year but are not included in the data analysis. Those are McDowell, Mingo, Webster and Wirt.
For more information, contact Beverly Kingery, Reading First lead coordinator, at (304) 558-2691, or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.