CHICAGO – Because reading is fundamental to success in all aspects of education, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today plans to make reading specialists permanent fixtures in struggling Illinois elementary schools. The Governor’s initiative targets elementary schools that are failing to meet reading achievement standards mandated by the “No Child Left Behind Act.”
“We need to make sure that struggling schools have access to tools they need to help students learn to read,” Governor Blagojevich said. “One of the biggest challenges many elementary teachers face is they don’t have the time or the extensive background that reading specialists have to teach the most up-to-date reading techniques.”
In 2003, only 62% of third graders and 60.4% of fifth graders met or exceeded Illinois Learning Standards in Reading. The Governor’s initiative targets elementary schools that are on the academic early warning list and have failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards for two consecutive years on the state ISAT test for reading. His plan would put a reading specialist in every targeted school, outside the City of Chicago, during next school year, which is expected to amount to about 143 specialists. The Chicago Public School District would receive a lump sum to fund reading specialists where district officials determine they are most needed.
Reading specialists have received specialized training that provide them with advanced preparation and experience in teaching reading. They support, supplement and extend regular classroom teaching. But, reading specialists also have the ability to work one-on-one or with small groups of students. They have specialized knowledge to diagnose students’ reading strengths and weaknesses and they can develop specific plans tailored to meet individual students’ reading challenges. Reading specialists can also be an additional resource for elementary teachers, because they can provide guidance and leadership on reading new techniques and strategies.
“These experts will benefit both students and teachers. Students will get more focused, individual attention,” Governor Blagojevich said. “At the same time, teachers will learn techniques to identify struggling readers and the latest strategies to improve reading skills.”
The Governor’s plan is expected to cost about $15 million, with funding for reading specialists to begin on July 1, 2004. Governor Blagojevich will outline this proposal and other education initiatives during his State of the State address, at the State Capitol, on Thursday, January 15, at 12 Noon.