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Bacewich, A. & Salinger, T. (2006). Lessons and recommendations from the Alabama Reading Initiative: Sustaining focus on secondary reading. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research.

Author: Bacewich, A. & Salinger, T.

Link: http://www.air.org/publications/documents/ARI%20Popular%20Report_final.pdf

Description:

This is one of the most recent reports on coaching to appear to date. It is quite interesting because the focus is on efforts in Alabama to improve adolescent literacy. Alabama was one of the first states to receive Reading First moneys. The state also began to improve reading in grades 4-12 using state funding. At the end of the report, the Bacewich and Salinger report that Alabama made a decision not to apply for Striving Readers moneys at this point in time because they did not want to assign some schools to be control groups. Based upon the successes that the report outlines, one can see why this decision was made. Simply reading the executive summary of this report gives one much to think about.

The report outlines criteria to which secondary schools had to agree in order to receive state funding for the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI). In terms of professional development, there were two very important criteria: 1) a commitment of at least 85% of the faculty and administration to attend a two-week intensive summer institute about reading improvement and ongoing professional development throughout the school year, and 2) the appointment of full-time reading coaches, who worked with teachers and with struggling readers. To additional cornerstones of the program are collaboration between schools and high education faculty partners and partnerships with local businesses.

It is very interesting that the ARI secondary initiative started with a one-size-fits-all approach to supporting students' reading. However, curricular intentions were not very clear to teachers, and so Alabama secondary teachers and their reading coaches systematically adapted materials and approaches to meet their particular needs. Bacewich and Salinger state, "Indeed, it is safe to say that their efforts to make ARI work in secondary schools with adolescent students have resulted in separate secondary and elementary reading initiatives under the same ARI umbrella."

Bacewich and Salinger outline four important lessons learned from the Alabama efforts: 1) be responsive, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, 2) develop partnerships among teachers, administrators, and schools to create a coherent and well-defined K-12 continuum of reading instruction, 3) provide secondary teachers and schools with consistent support from coaches and other staff, and 4) be attentive to the local, state, and national policy environment related to reading.

The report goes into depth about the qualitative changes that have occurred for teachers, administrators, and students as part of ARI efforts. It confirms that achievement scores in Alabama have risen, but that the intent of the research study was not to tie particular teachers, student achievement scores, and ARI. While there has been much change in attitude and instruction among secondary teachers, both teachers and administrators think that they still need an intensive reading program for students who are reading much below grade level in middle and high school. On their own AIR is starting to pilot such a program called A-PAL.

Date Added: 10/01/2006

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