Newswise — In the post-third-grade world, too many students still struggle with reading. President Bush is attempting to address this issue with a $200 million Striving Readers Initiative. Reading authorities are already defining how that money can be most effectively spent, drawing on evidence from No Child Left Behind and Reading First.

Highlighting results from a membership survey at an International Reading Association forum, IRA research and policy director Cathy Roller identified several key findings that she hopes will inform the adolescent literacy initiatives. Roller noted that teachers overwhelmingly accept the basic tenet that children's reading will improve when research-based curriculum and instruction are implemented. The survey also indicated support for extended school time and the availability of supplemental services for students who need extra help. What teachers rejected was NCLB's package of sanctions, rejecting completely state takeovers.

Most significant among the lessons from Reading First implementation is the impact of technical assistance in the form of professional development. "The basic message here is put money into people, not programs," Roller stressed. Reading First teachers, who master reading instruction by working with qualified reading coaches, are more positive about NCLB than other survey respondents.

Mary Abouzeid, University of Virginia, who was responsible for implementing professional development for Reading First programs, agreed with Roller, but cautioned that teachers in middle and high school will be more challenging to work with, in part because they are in classrooms to teach the content of their specialty. Abouzeid dismissed the idea that reading can be taught by "programs," commenting that "Teaching reading doesn't come out of a box." She suggested that reading scores will improve with teachers who know how teach reading and when students get plenty of opportunities to read instructional materials on their current reading level.

Ilene Berman, deputy education director with the National Governors Association, joined roller and Abouzeid on the panel. NGA is focusing much of its high school redesign initiative around adolescent literacy programs.

A copy of the IRA NCLB survey is available at IRA is a community of reading professionals with more than 80,000 members in nearly 100 countries, dedicated to promoting higher achievement levels in literacy, reading, and communication by continually advancing the quality of instruction worldwide.

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Making Striving Readers Initiatives Work