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A Reading Turn-A-Round, Thanks to Reading First

By utilizing the structure, lessons, and funding provided by Reading First, staff members at an Idaho elementary school were able to change their schedules and approach to reading instruction, resulting in marked gains in reading scores. Included: A description of how Reading First can shape a reading program.

Terry Garner, principal of Heyburn Elementary School in Heyburn, Idaho, recently wrote about how his school has benefited from Reading First in the South Idaho Press.

"Much has been said about the No Child Left Behind Act, its requirement of adequate yearly progress (AYP), the requirement of highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals, and the requirement that all children must be tested, etc.," wrote Garner.

"I, like many other educators, probably don't know enough about the law itself, but I do know how it has affected our school, Heyburn Elementary...

"Heyburn Elementary, along with other schools in our state, directly benefits from NCLB funding because we are a Reading First school, which is one of Idaho's strategies to implement NCLB," according to Garner. "Last year, as a new Reading First school, our faculty discussed together the changes that would be made.

"Led by Reading First guidelines, we developed a completely new school schedule that includes an uninterrupted 90 minute reading period. During this reading block, teachers focus on fundamental reading instruction with the whole class," said Garner. "They deliver the reading program as precisely as possible in order to gain its full effectiveness..."

Reading First funds allowed the school to hire a reading coach to help the staff, he wrote. "In addition, school staff members were able to hire national trainers who periodically came to the school and helped us do this job of teaching reading better than we ever had before. What a great help!"

"We probably worked harder than ever before; doing things we'd done before, but with more expertise and confidence," Garner continued. "We met together weekly as staff members to 'cuss and discuss' our challenges. We scrutinized data generated from familiar as well as new and unfamiliar tests. We learned that too many of our students were not developing basic reading skills at home or as automatically as we had once thought.

"We backed up; we dug out more time to help them learn," he wrote. "It was the hardest work we'd ever done, but it was gratifying and rewarding. Our students seemed to catch the spirit as well. I believe they tried harder and did better than they ever had before.

"We were unsure about what the results of our labors would be. What were the results? Just a few years ago only 50 percent of the students scored at a proficient level on state tests. But this year 72 percent of the students were proficient. That met the NCLB goal; our school made AYP! We feel even more validated as tests are being given this fall. Student skills appear to have held," according to Garner.

"This Reading First journey has been an inspiring experience for our students, for our teachers, and for me as the principal," he noted. "Now our goal this year is to do a little better. Our goal more than ever is that 'no child will be left behind'. Thanks Reading First."


Some of the information in this article comes from the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more about this article, you might read:

  • Observations About 'No Child Left Behind'
    This news article appeared in the South Idaho Press on October 10, 2005. Note: This link was live at the time of publication. Some newspaper Web sites require registration. Others retain complete news stories for a limited time.
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