Proposal to Fund the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant Program Illinois Association of School Administrators November 2006 The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) respectfully requests that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), with approval from the General Assembly and Governor, allocate a minimum of $3,000,000 to the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant Program. Funding for this program, as authorized under ILCS 5/2-3.51a, would enable school districts to support students in grades 7 through 12 who are reading significantly below grade level. The rationale for our request is compelling. Although a large body of research documents deficiencies in adolescent literacy, we are more concerned about the facts and figures we see on the state report cards: • In 2005, a full 40% of eleventh grade students did not meet state reading standards in eleventh grade. That means that this year approximately two out of every five high school students who graduated in 2006 did not have the reading skills to meet state standards. If they cannot meet state reading standards, how can we expect them to succeed in the workplace, in community college or at the university level? • In 2005, 65% of African American students did not meet state reading standards in eleventh grade. Two-thirds of African American students who graduated in 2006 did not have the reading skills to meet state reading standards. • In 2005, 60% of Hispanic students did not meet state reading standards in eleventh grade. Three of every five Hispanic students who graduated in 2006 did not have the reading skills to meet state reading standards. • An enormous gap in reading achievement exists between White and minority students and between poor students and their peers and as a result we are graduating high school students who are stratified by race and income: o In 2005, 63% of low-income students did not meet state standards in eleventh grade, but 67% of non-poor students did meet or exceed state standards. o In 2005, approximately fewer than 40% of minority students met state reading standards, while more than 67% of White students met or exceeded state reading standards. The gaps between racial groups and between the poor and non-poor high school students are not closing: • In 2002, approximately 66% of White students met or exceeded state reading standards while only 32% of African American students met or exceeded state standards. In 2005, this 34 point gap has only shrunk by one point! • Likewise, the 31 point gap between poor and non-poor students in 2002 has only decreased by one point in 2005. • Of the 138 high schools that have 50% or more of their students from low-income families, a mere 29 have even half of their students meeting or exceeding state reading standards. In other words, almost 80% of all high schools that serve a majority of poor kids do not have even half their students meeting state reading standards. Talking Points November 2006 Page 2 IASA is seeking $3,000,000 for the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant, because we know that funding for the Reading Improvement Block Grant for kindergarten through sixth grade has worked. There is ample evidence that this grant has had a positive, measurable impact on improving student achievement. Here are some results: • In Illinois, there are more than 900 “low-income” elementary schools. These are schools in which more than half of the students are from low-income families. In 2001, only 32% or less than 1/3 of these low-income schools had even half of their students meeting third grade state reading standards. In 2005, 54% of these schools now have half of their students meeting state reading standards. In other words, in four years the percentage of low-income elementary schools that have at least half of the students meeting third grade reading standards has risen by 67%! • Minority students have made significant gains. In 2002, 52% of third grade Hispanic students did not meet reading standards; in 2005, 56% of Hispanic students do meet or exceed state standards. Likewise, the percentage of third grade African American students meeting or exceeding state standards has grown from 34% in 2002 to 41% in 2005, which represents a gain of 20%. • Low-income students have also made significant progress. In 2002, 60% of third graders did not meet state reading standards. In 2005, that percentage dropped to 52%. • The Reading Block Grant is helping to close the achievement gap. The 42 point gap between White and African American students in 2002 decreased to a 37 point gap in 2005. The gap between White and Hispanic students in 2002 was 28 percentage points, and in 2005 it was cut to 22 percentage points. The Reading Improvement Block Grant is making a difference for several reasons, including: • It contains assurances that funding goes directly to support the best proven practices: reading instruction and reading professional development; • It requires rigid accountability measures including pre-testing and post-testing; • It distributes money fairly - 70% on ADA and 30% on low-income enrollment; • It allows districts to hire trained reading specialists. Based on the success of the Reading Improvement Block Grant and assurances in the School Code (105 ILCS 5/2-3.51a), IASA is confident that funding for the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant will have a positive impact on students in seventh through twelfth grade who are struggling to read. IASA fully realizes that ISBE understands the importance of assuring that all students graduate from Illinois high schools as capable readers. In fact, the first goal of your own strategic plan is “Enhancing Literacy.” We beseech you, then, to fund your own top strategic priority by putting a minimum of $3,000,000 into the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant for FY 08 and then tirelessly advocating for legislative approval and the Governor’s signature. In closing, it is an outrage that in the Land of Lincoln we allow such a gap between the reading achievement of minority and White high school students to go unattended. It is an embarrassment that in this great state we have ignored the fact that 80% of high schools serving a majority of low-income students do not have half their boys and girls meeting state reading standards. The IASA advocates on behalf of these thousands of teenagers who are struggling to read; on behalf of these boys and girls, who are soon to be our workforce, parents of a new generation and our leaders of tomorrow; on behalf of the Talking Points November 2006 Page 3 middle schools and high schools faced with the challenge of closing the achievement gap and challenges ISBE, the General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich to fund the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant. We have ignored the problem too long. It is now time to support our middle school and high school students who are not acquiring the reading skills they desperately need to succeed after they graduate. It is now time to put $3,000,000 into the Continued Reading Improvement Block Grant Program so we can begin to provide the reading instruction and trained personnel our teenage children - who are soon to be our workforce, parents of a new generation and our leaders of tomorrow - so richly need and deserve. Thank you for your consideration.