Sen. Sessions, First Lady and Secretary of Education Meet to Discuss Expansion of Striving Readers Program
The importance of improving adolescent literacy rates and expanding the Striving Readers pilot program were subjects of conversation when U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings met at the White House today.
The conversation was part of a White House meeting with lawmakers to discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind education law.
Striving Readers is a federal demonstration program that provides grants to states and districts to create literacy programs specifically for middle and high school students. Last year's funding was $29.7 million, enough for only eight competitive grants.
Sessions introduced the Striving Readers Act with Patty Murray (D-WA) in March to expand the program nationwide. Bush recently announced her support for expanding the existing Striving Readers program as part of the upcoming congressional reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.
Sessions' legislation would help ensure that students at risk of dropping out because of poor reading skills receive the literacy interventions they need to earn a high school diploma.
"The First Lady is committed to improving reading skills and literacy in our schools. She is a great advocate for our students and clearly understands the importance of the Striving Readers program," Sessions said. "Seventy percent of our middle and high school students read below grade level, and that affects their ability to succeed in all their courses, even math and science. The aim of the program is to improve the reading capabilities of older students by focusing on advanced vocabulary and comprehension skills. I look forward to working with Sec. Spellings, who has been a leader on this issue, as we move forward to greater implementation of this program."
The Striving Readers legislation would authorize $200 million in FY2008, with increasing funding through FY2012. Once fully phased in, Alabama would receive about $22 million annually.
Spellings voiced support for the Striving Readers program.
"Reading is the foundation of all learning and our schools need the Striving Readers program to help students that are falling behind," said Secretary Spellings. "I want to thank Sen. Sessions for his leadership in the Senate to expand this program so more students acquire the reading skills they need to succeed in life."
Specifically, the Striving Readers Act would:
· Help states create statewide literacy initiatives for students in grades 4 -12, share data on student progress with parents and the public, and improve teacher training and professional development in literacy so that all students receive high quality instruction.
· Help districts and schools create plans to improve literacy for adolescents, develop top notch assessments, train teachers in every subject area in literacy strategies and use regular data to improve teaching and learning.
· Allow districts and schools to hire and place literacy coaches, train parents to support the literacy development of their child, and connect learning inside the classroom with learning that takes place outside the classroom.
· Require states, districts, and schools to participate in a rigorous evaluation that demonstrates student progress.
· Require the federal government to complete an overall evaluation of the program to determine its impact on the nation's middle and high schools.
In addition to Murray, 16 other senators have signed on as cosponsors.