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Striving Readers’ Positive Effect on Reading Achievement Demonstrates Need for Further Comprehensive Literacy Education Funding

capitol buildingOn October 27, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) released its Summary of research generated by Striving Readers on the effectiveness of interventions for struggling adolescent readers. Four interventions revealed a positive effect on reading achievement, demonstrating the efficacy of federal investments in comprehensive literacy education programs. NCTE, as part of the Advocates for Literacy Coalition (Coalition), was instrumental in securing funding for the Striving Readers grant program and providing advice and counsel during the administration of the grants by the United States Department of Education.

Striving Readers is a discretionary grant program authorized as part of the FY 2005 Appropriations Act under the Title I demonstration authority (Part E, Section 1502 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, 2001—PL 107-110). Under the NCEE study, grants were awarded to sixteen school districts and states. Districts that showed “statistically significant positive effect . . . on students’ reading achievement” ranged from ninth graders in five schools in Massachusetts, students from grades 6–9 in five schools in Milwaukee, incarcerated youth ages 15–25 in seven Ohio high schools, students in grades 7–10 in nine schools in Portland, Oregon, adolescents with learning disabilities from grades 6–12 in twenty-one schools in Kentucky, grades 6 and 7 in ten schools in Louisiana, and ninth graders in six high schools in Illinois.

According to the NCEE report, “This body of evidence substantially increases the amount of credible information available to district administrators trying to decide how to best meet the needs of struggling adolescent readers” and to “provide practitioners and policymakers with credible information to help design instructional programs to meet the needs of struggling adolescent readers.”

Since 2005, NCTE, as part of the Coalition, worked with Congressional representatives and staff to win funding for the current version of Striving Readers, which significantly improves upon the program by the same name authorized by NCLB. The Coalition advocated for expanding the reach of Striving Readers from elementary to middle and high schools and made sure it spread across all subject areas and grade levels. The Coalition was instrumental in defining who should participate in the membership of state committees that administered the grants to take a community approach and include a range of people, such as members from the business community and librarians. Members of the Coalition met regularly with staff of the United States Department of Education to provide feedback and counsel over the life of the program.

Unfortunately, funding for Striving Readers ends this year. NCTE has continued to press for Congressional funding of comprehensive literacy, which is a key plank of our 2015 NCTE Education Policy Platform and 2015 Recommendations to Policymakers. As part of Advocacy Day and Advocacy Month, NCTE members met with Congressional staff and representatives or were encouraged to write or call to press for Congressional support for a comprehensive literacy program in the reauthorized version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Such a program, based on language that NCTE helped to write, is included in the bill that was passed unanimously by the HELP committee and overwhelmingly by the full Senate.

This new report further supports our argument that Congress must authorize and fund this program this year to fill the void left by the end of Striving Readers while building on its many successes.