|Hamilton County, OH||November 3, 1998 General|
Ohio Reads: Reading Success for Every Child
By Bob TaftCandidate for Governor
This information is provided by the candidate
Acknowledging that reading is central to the learning process and future academic success, Taft discusses his plan to help all Ohio school children read at grade level by the fourth grade.
-- Secretary of State Bob Taft
Reading is at the heart of education. Nothing is more fundamental. Yet far too many of our young people fail to read or are reading below grade level. And it has long been known that poor reading performance often leads to poor economic performance. In fact, 43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty. Seventy percent of these same individuals have no job or just a part-time job. The realities of an increasingly knowledge-based global economy will do nothing but make these statistics grow worse.
These facts argue persuasively for reading intervention in preschool and the early elementary grades. Last year, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 55 which requires all fourth graders to pass the fourth grade reading proficiency test in order to advance to the fifth grade. To help make this possible, reading intervention strategies were required to be offered to first, second and third graders who need help. Other efforts, including summer programing, will also be required. All of this so Ohio can help all of its children become successful readers and, in the process, pass the reading portion of the fourth grade proficiency test. A test that less than two out of three (64%) of our fourth graders passed last year.
Done well, intervention can make a difference for children. Successful reading programs abound, including the reading recovery program and tried and true approaches such as reading aloud. Indeed, research has shown that reading aloud is the single most successful approach to teaching children to read.
OhioReads: Taking Real Steps Toward Reading Success
OhioReads is a policy proposal designed to accomplish one primary public policy goal: turning all children into successful readers.
A companion to the reading intervention strategies required by Senate Bill 55, and all day kindergarten and lower class size for high poverty districts contained in current law, OhioReads will provide schools experiencing high rates of reading failure with funding, program support, technical assistance and volunteers to help children learn how to read. And while these initiatives are important, no program will succeed without the commitment, dedication and involvement of parents, teachers and school administrators.
OhioReads is a multi-stage, multi-year program that will prioritize reading using existing public funds, be they local, state or federal. From Head Start and public preschool programing to greater involvement in reading readiness by Ohio's outstanding public libraries to greater focus on reading by all elementary school teachers, reading improvement will be job one in a Taft Administration.
But prioritization is just the first step. Significant resources need to be brought to bear on this critical issue if all children are to be successful readers. A down payment on this vision will come with a $25 million appropriation for OhioReads. Five million dollars will be devoted to OhioReads Community Reading Grants, with another $20 million to be earmarked for OhioReads Classroom Reading Grants. These monies should be provided in FY 1999 if State Issue 2 passes. If State Issue 2 fails, this program initiative will be proposed in the FY 2000-2001 biennial budget proposal -- the first executive budget of the new administration.
OhioReads Community Reading Grants
OhioReads will begin by setting aside $5 million for Community Reading Grants of up to $50,000. Grants will require matching dollars on a sliding scale basis. Likely partners would begin with our public libraries, which are among the best in the nation and receive more state support per capita than any other state in the union. Most of our libraries are already providing positive reading programs, often times supplemented with volunteers, to preschool and elementary school age children. The potential for increasing these services is dramatic. Other partners would include, but not be limited to, pediatric and other health-related organizations, Family and Children First Councils, 4-H, local governments and service clubs. Support of direct services will be made as will support for the recruitment, training and placement of reading volunteers.
A particular focus will be given to efforts to increase parental involvement in reading and strengthen preschool programming to help assure that parents and other care givers learn how to read effectively with their young children. This early education focus, which should include connections with Head Start, will help Ohio build on the solid work that has already been done to assure that all our children are ready for school.
OhioReads Classroom Reading Grants
OhioReads' centerpiece will be a one year, $20 million state block grant that will initially be limited to school districts with a failure rate on the fourth grade reading proficiency test that places them in the bottom decile (10%) of all districts. Eligible districts must provide the Ohio Department of Education with a Reading Improvement Plan outlining the types of interventions the district will use to improve reading in grades kindergarten through fourth.
Classroom Reading Grants will place particular emphasis on professional development of educators. Helping every kindergarten through fourth grade teacher improve his or her ability to teach reading can have a great impact on educational productivity without stretching dollars to hire additional staff, though this too may be necessary in many cases. Further professional development will also allow these same teachers to effectively manage reading volunteers in their classroom.
OhioReads will set aside five percent of first year and subsequent year funding for program administration, program support, and technical assistance. Particular efforts will be made to encourage replication of successful reading programs. This will be facilitated by the creation of an OhioReads Information Clearinghouse.
This program's focus builds on Ohio's current successful efforts to encourage school-based volunteering on the part of Ohio's senior citizens. The STAR (Seniors Teaching and Reaching) and RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program) programs are supported in part by the Ohio Department of Aging.
Reading volunteers are part of our great tradition of voluntary service to school and community for the benefit of the public good. This tradition stretches back generations and includes service at all levels of government and in many private non-profit groups.
It is service that includes most Ohio families including the Taft family. Bob Taft has long continued his family's tradition of public and community service. Bob's wife Hope is also a shining example of unselfish commitment to others through her work in support of drug abuse prevention and education.
Despite the fact that our lives have never been busier or more stressful, and the growth in one parent families and two earner families makes it easy to believe that few have time for volunteering, Ohioans are volunteering in significant numbers. You can see it in the commitment of a growing number of school volunteers. You can see it in the houses built by volunteers for low income people who need a helping hand and a roof over their heads. And the reasons for it can be seen in the daily litany of statistics concerning poverty, crime, drug abuse, family fragmentation and school failure.
And though government can help with many of these efforts, government cannot do it alone. Instead, helping Ohio families and improving Ohio communities will take dynamic new partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
OhioReads Volunteer Program
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will be the centerpiece of an enhanced Governor's Community Service Council, which is currently housed in the Department of Aging. This initiative will begin in Fiscal Year 2000 with a $1 million appropriation. It will evolve to become a well focused, coordinated effort to recruit, train and help place 10,000 Ohioans to become reading tutors to school children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade by 2002. This volunteer initiative, which would largely be school, preschool and public library based, will be designed to produce tangible results in improved reading test scores.
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will mobilize citizens, businesses, civic organizations, seniors and college community members to volunteer their time and resources to help ensure that every student learns how to read. Particular focus will be placed on academic fundamentals with a special focus on helping elementary students read successfully. OhioReads will include the development of a strategic plan for identifying, training and placing reading volunteers throughout Ohio and doing it in full partnership with the people who know the most -- teachers and school administrators.
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will be modeled in part on the successful efforts of the respected Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. This private non-profit organization works with schools and other community organizations, including local businesses which often provide substantial funding, to recruit, train and place mentors and tutors. The Collaborative has 1,250 mentors and approximately 300 tutors placed through local schools.
Training is made available for both volunteer groups and is required for mentors. Efforts are also made to conduct background checks on all participants. This important security feature will also be part of the OhioReads Volunteer Program. So will local school district ownership and involvement. OhioReads volunteers will only succeed if they are appropriately trained and placed and school district staff are part of the decision making process.
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will include a volunteer hot line (1-800-OHREADS). It will also sponsor an annual reading recruitment media campaign. Private sector support will be sought to fund this initiative. A volunteer web site will also be created.
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will recognize the work of outstanding volunteers. Recognition will include:
Governor's OhioReads Volunteer Awards. OhioReads volunteers who devote at least one hour per week during a school year will be given a Governor's OhioReads Recognition Award. Companies that facilitate participation in the OhioReads Volunteer Program by their employees will also be given these awards.
The OhioReads Volunteer Program will be further energized by creation of a Gubernatorial Executive Order allowing state employees to take limited paid leave to participate in the OhioReads Volunteer Program.
Learning to read matters and matters profoundly. Every Ohio school child should be able to read to the very best of his or her ability. Under a Taft Administration, assuring that every child learns to read will be at the top of the educational "to do" list.
Position Paper 3
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