The Alabama Reading Initiative: A K-12 Initiative
In 1997, 1 in 3 Alabama public school students in grades 3-8 could not read on grade level. As a solution to this growing struggle, in 1998 the Alabama Reading Initiative was started with the help of private and public sector partners. Alabama’s reading initiative is a project of the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama Department of Education. After the Alabama Reading Initiative demonstrated promise in classrooms across the state, a statewide expansion was proposed. This statewide movement is anchored by scientifically based reading research and its aim is achieving, at a minimum, grade-level reading for all of Alabama’s public school students.
The initiative is targeted on three fronts:
§ strengthening reading instruction in the early grades;
§ continuously expanding all students’ reading power and comprehension levels;
§ and intervening effectively with struggling readers.
Through intensive teacher development efforts that are the heart and soul of the initiative, educators across the state learn how to use student assessment data to identify areas where students can improve and how to adjust instruction according to student needs. They are equipped to apply researched-based strategies that will result in increased student achievement. Dollar for dollar, research shows that investment in teacher professional development increases student achievement more than anything else. Good teaching matters most when it comes to improving education.
The Alabama Reading Initiative has been evaluated rigorously through five external evaluations. It can work for all schools regardless of the school's population. The Alabama Reading Initiative is data-driven professional development that empowers teachers with the content knowledge, skills, and strategies necessary to be successful. The initiative encourages school-wide reform in which teachers reflect and solve problems with their peers. ARI is increasing student achievement one student at a time.
In 2011, The Alabama Reading Initiative funds a reading coach in every K-3 school, as well as 13 secondary literacy coaches in project schools.
NATIONAL REPORT PRAISES TEACHERS AND ALABAMA READING INITIATIVE: The Alabama Reading Initiative Project for Adolescent Literacy (ARI-PAL)
The Alabama Reading Initiative has successfully improved the teaching and learning of reading in the state, and a new report documents this success as a model for other states to follow. "Lessons and Recommendations from the Alabama Reading Initiative: Sustaining Focus on Secondary Reading" was produced by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The report praised the efforts of middle and high school teachers for their steady commitment to student achievement. It pointed to teachers' creativity and resourcefulness in looking for strategies to improve reading levels for all students. This commitment is seen not only in English instructors; faculty members in all subjects are required to participate in ARI and expand their lessons to include ARI instructional practices.
The report found that ARI has positively impacted the achievement levels of secondary school students and made several recommendations based on its study of the ARI model. AIR found that the ARI's flexible approach towards professional development for secondary school teachers and its K-12 continuum of literacy development resource material are key elements for successful reading programs. State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton commented that the report "validates Alabama as a national leader, if not the leader, of reading in the nation