Everybody Reads

Grant Proposal

Charles Arthur and John Nelsen, Developers

 

 

Grant Proposal Abstract

The Mastery Learning Institute, a registered Oregon public benefit non-profit organization with 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status is seeking funding support for the continuation of the Everybody Reads After-School/Summer program for the years 2001 and 2002. The fund raising goal of the first year is $35,000 from local businesses and foundations. This represents 61% of the total budget for that year. Funds for the first year will go towards remaining start-up costs plus general operational expenses. The funding goal for the second year is $35,000 that will go towards the continuation and expansion of the program.

The Everybody Reads (ER) program has been in operation for one year. During this year, the program operated on only a third of its needed funds. So far, $10,000 has been raised towards the first year goal of $35,000.

ER provides a much needed after-school/summer reading program for low-achieving students in grades 1 through 5, who come from working-class households in east Multnomah county, Portland, OR.. This area includes all of the eastern side of Metropolitan Portland, which covers six school districts and forty schools.

The ER program operates a series of intensive reading classes four quarter-terms a year. During a term, students meet four of five days a week for fifty-minutes of small group (3-5) instruction for ten weeks or 40 classes. The program requires from 3 to 4 teachers and one teacher/administrator to teach 6 or 7 groups each term. Within a year, the program has grown from 10 to 35 children. Because some students return for a second or third term of classes, 85 different students were served during the year 2000, the first year of the program's existence. Plans to expand the program during 2002 should increase that number to 120 a year.

The objective of the ER program is to provide high quality instruction, which dramatically accelerates a child's reading progress, at an affordable cost to children from working-class families. The per-student cost for this program, excluding start-up costs is $450. While this cost is less than one-half that of comparable reading programs, it is still out of reach of most east county families. Mosts families are able to pay betwen $50 and $200 a term. Tuition is based on a sliding scale of family income.

 

Narrative
Everybody Reads

1. The Everybody Reads (ER) Project is an after-school and summer program for children that helps to make sure that all children are good readers.

Goals:

1. To provide high quality after-school and summer reading instruction at an affordable cost to children from working families in east Multnomah County.
2. To dramatically accelerate a child's reading progress,
3. To increase self-confidence and self-esteem among children who have not done well in reading.

Objectives:

1. To enroll at least 35 children in a series of 10 week classes each quarter.
2. To enable children to double their reading progress from what is normally expected.


This kind of progress means that, for every two months of instruction, a child will advance at least 4 months. If a child enrolls in the classes for a year, (4 terms) he or she will advance at least two years in reading skills. For children enrolled in the ER program who are behind due to slow rates of progress, this kind of progress means more than doubling their previous rate of learning.

Its Importance
Next to poverty, learning how to read is the single most important determiner in school success.
Reading achievement scores in the first grade highly predict school success in the 9th and 12th grade. It has been demonstrated that learning to read well in the early grades can make a difference in cognitive growth equal to at least 15 IQ points.


ER helps address the challenge of making sure that every child is a good reader. It is well known that achieving reading mastery during the elementary years is key to future academic success as well as success in adult life. It is no exaggeration to say that how well children learn to read profoundly affects how well they do throughout their school years ­ and their lives.


Children who quickly develop the skills necessary to read with fluency and comprehension gain access to all the world's knowledge. They acquire the power to educate themselves and to expand their range of thought and reflection. Children who do not develop these skills become caught in a downward spiral of frustration and failure.


We view the current situation where many children struggle, fall behind and even fail to learn how to read to be tragic. Failing to learn how to read well has a devastating affect on children's lives and families. The goal of this project is predicated on the belief that, in spite of how difficult it is for many children, all children can learn to read successfully.


Today, people need skills and many of these skills either require reading for their acquisition or for their performance. Reading skill serves as the major avenue to learning about people, about history and social studies, the language arts, science, mathematics, and the other content subjects that must be mastered in school. The level of a child's reading ability predicts the level of their ability to learn new things. The more they know, the easier it is to learn still more. Breadth of knowledge has a higher correlation with achievement than socioeconomic status. The correlation between socioeconomic status and achievement is .422, whereas the correlation between general information and achievement is .811.1 Accessing information is now critical to a productive life in the modern world.


The consequences for not being a good reader in today's world are serious. Low literacy is strongly related to unemployment, poverty, and crime. About 43 percent of those with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, and 70 percent of the prison population falls into the two lowest levels of reading proficiency2. In the 1998 report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, written by the National Research Council and published by the National Academy of Sciences along with the U. S. Department of Education, it was concluded that "educational careers of 25 to 40 percent of American children are imperiled because they do not read well enough, quickly enough, or easily enough to ensure comprehension in their content courses in middle and secondary school." The report continues to state that, "although difficult to translate into actual dollar amounts, the costs to society are probably quite high in terms of lower productivity, underemployment, mental health services, and other measures.3"


Children having difficulty learning to read say that they do not like to read, primarily because it is such hard work.4 As one adolescent said, " I would rather have a root canal than read." 5 One researcher found that 40 percent of the poor fourth grade readers claimed that they would rather clean their room than read. One child stated, "I'd rather clean mold around the bathtub than read." 6 According to the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, children with mild, but persistent, reading difficulties are affected in many ways: they socialize less or do the opposite and act out, engage in fewer extracurricular activities in school, curtail their education before their career aspirations may be realized, and are less likely to develop into people with diverse involvements and interests.7

2. Targeted Population
The Everybody Reads program provides a much needed after-school and summer reading program for low-achieving children in grades 1 through 5, who come from working-class households in east Multnomah county, Portland, Oregon. This area includes all of the eastern side of Metropolitan Portland, and covers six school districts or 40 schools, which includes 12 schools in the Portland School District.

The program has grown from 10 children in October, 1999 to 35 in October 2000. Seven groups are taught four days a week, 3 groups at 5:30 and 4 groups at 6:30. Many children return to two or three terms a year. It is estimated that from 80 to 90 different children will be served each year. Bringing their children to these classes four days a week requires a strong commitment from parents. Attendance is very regular. We are projecting a growth of 15 more students, or 3 groups, per term in the 2001-2 year.


Most of the children come from low-income families. Census statistics from 1998 indicate that 45% of the households in Multnomah county received incomes of $35,000 or less 8. An even larger percentage of households with children in three of the east county school districts live below the federally recognized poverty line. This is higher than in the Portland city school district, which is 40 percent. The rate of increase of low-income households has been greater over the last ten years in all five east county districts that in the Portland district.

3. Needs of Children Within the Prevailing Conditions
Currently, demands for children to read well are at the highest level ever, just when our child population, for many reasons, possesses characteristics that make meeting these demands increasingly more difficult.
Higher demands for reading achievement have been well documented. The 1998 report by the National Research Council stresses that the increased urgency for teaching all children to read does not come from "declining absolute levels of literacy" but from the "rising demands for literacy" in our "increasingly competitive economy." It goes on to state that "In a technological society, the demands for higher literacy are ever increasing, creating more grievous consequences for those who fall short." Increased attention to published results of state tests also attest to increased demands of student achievement. In our modern world, all children need to be good readers.


For the first time in the history of the world, the level of education almost completely determines the economic well being of individuals and the economy as a whole. If you do not learn to read and you live in America, you do not make it in life. Eight of the ten fastest-growing jobs in the next decade will require either a college education or moderate to long term post-secondary training. 9 From 1979 to 1999 the average real hourly wage rose for those with college degrees and fell for those without college degrees.10


Just when high achievement for all children is being called for, changes in the demographic make-up of society have resulted in an increase number of children who can be classified as academically diverse learners. More children are living in poverty, more children do not speak English as their first language, and more children are identified as having learning difficulties. These children who, by virtue of their instructional, experiential, cultural, socioeconomic, linguistic, and physiological backgrounds, bring different and oftentimes additional requirements to instruction and curriculum. The special demands they bring to public education are growing at a pace that currently outstrips educator's abilities to keep up.11


Similar changes have taken place in the demographics of Multnomah county over the last ten years that make children in the five districts in the county increasingly more vulnerable to at-risk influences. While the per capita income in the county has increased from $16,679 to $21,121 during this time, the average household income has decreased from $37,905 to $35,357. Figures show that, during the 1990's, there was far greater increase in the number of families with lower incomes in the east county school districts than in the Portland school district.12 (see table 1) National figures indicate that three fifths of adults with average incomes of $39,000, or less, live in the growing suburbs.


The present challenge for all schools is to educate all students to a higher level of achievement than ever before with a student population that is becoming increasingly academically diverse. One of the goals of education in a democracy is to reduce the affect of adverse environmental influences on the school achievement of children. Given the critical role of reading on school achievement, reading instruction is an appropriate place to focus. Scores in early reading tests predict scores on later reading tests, grades on report cards, job performance and income levels. Recent research indicates that success rates in teaching reading to all children should be above the 95th percentile, even with the current increase in student academic diversity.13 Yet, meeting this goal is still a profound challenge. It calls for extraordinary efforts and programs.

A Need for Extra Help with a Focus
In spite of the success levels that research indicates are possible, most current evidence indicates a far lower level of success is being achieved in schools. Estimates of national literacy rates have declined in the last 60 years, even the last 20 years. In Oregon, on a national test, only 60% of Oregon's 4th graders were successful with basic reading skills, compared to 56% on the national level.14 Yet, from a very recent analysis by the Rand Corporation, this difference was more due to demographics than instructional quality. In fact, when demographics were considered, Oregon students did not do as well as their peers in other similar living situations. From state measures, there has been some improvement within the last two years, yet these are modest and highly correlate with socio-economic levels within the state. Third graders seem to be leveling off at 80% and fifth graders at 70%. A detailed analysis of the east county schools' performance on these tests show that several districts here are performing far below these marks. (see Table 2)


Because of this performance level, extraordinary efforts need to be made to drastically raise reading competency levels. Extra after-school and summer help needs to be a part of this effort. Yet, for this extra help to make a difference, it must be focused on essential skills that have the best chance of improving reading competency.
Part of the reason for the decline in reading performance comes from the previously described student population with academic difficulties. Changing these conditions are beyond the controls of educators. Yet, there is another strong contributor to this problem that is directly related to prevailing instructional practices that are within educator's control to change. At the same time that decreases in the literacy rates occurred during the last half of the century, other radical changes in reading instruction took place. These changes diverted widely from previously used methods and have not proved to be consistent with subsequent research in the field. This has resulted in a huge gap between research and the prevailing practice.


It is our view that most of the reasons for schools not being able to respond to the new demands for higher student achievement under current challenging conditions are not due to the increased academic diversity of children but due to not putting into practice the most recent knowledge about how to improve the teaching of reading. Not following the guidelines of research has made the situation tragic because it is now known that the decline in reading performance is unnecessary. Improvement in reading performance levels must include closing the gap between research and practice. During the transitional time in which this gap is being closed, additional help that is research-based is required to help those children being left behind.

4. How Needs, Goals and Objectives are to be Met by this Project
What Will Be Done?
The ER program consists of a series of intensive reading classes held quarterly each year. During a quarter term, students meet four days a week for fifty-minutes of small group (3-5) instruction for ten weeks or 40 classes. Tuition fees are based on an income Sliding Fee Scale and are agreed on, along with a payment schedule, with the parents before each term. Facilities are rented at the Savage Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1740 SE 139th and Mill, a central location in the county. No other program like this exists in the Portland area.
The average rate of progress for children that have received instruction has been six months of advancement for every two months of instruction. This kind of boost also increases confidence and self-esteem, other characteristics needed for school success.


How Will It Be Done?
Converging evidence from many sources accumulated over the last 20 years strongly indicates that virtually all students, including students with learning and other mild disabilities, can become competent readers if quality instruction that follows the most advance research guidelines if given early.


The results gained in the ER program are mostly due to two primary factors: 1) exemplary research-proven instruction that focuses on foundational skills, and 2) well-trained and experienced instructors working intensively with small skill-level groups. It is this approach, coupled with the low tuition cost, that makes the program unique.


In spite of the importance and urgency of the program goals, ER approaches this challenge well aware of how difficult it is to accomplish. The program brings to the prevailing situation a powerful and straightforward approach that focuses on what research shows is most important to beginning and weak readers. ER uses a research-based, mastery learning approach to teach essential skills. With this approach, it is held that a child's learning and rate of progress is affected by the extent to which they master sequentially presented lessons and activities on essential skills. Over a relatively short period of time, a child's progress can thus be accelerated because s/he has acquired a solid foundation and has learned how to learn.


The accumulated research evidence has shown that if children are to be successful readers, with understanding, they must be able to identify words in a given text quickly and easily. These are the essential foundational skills to skillful reading. Without a firm foundation of these skills, reading is weak and progress is very slow. It is also now known that, in order to achieve fluent word recognition skills, a thorough knowledge of and skills with the alphabetic code and how it represents speech sounds must be taught. Any program that intends on improving a child's reading competency must seriously help the child learn these skills. Just reading with a child or providing him/her books is not enough to make the kinds of improvements needed.


Controversy in how to teach reading has a long history in education. Yet, due to the increased amounts of research and development done within the last thirty years, the most important questions now have been empirically settled.15 During these three decades, the study of how good and poor readers identify words has become the most heavily researched topic in all of education and cognitive psychology. Results from research groups from various parts of the world and the U.S. began to converge during the late 80's and early 90's. The results have been unanimous. The most prevailing theory of how good readers read, that has provided guidance for the practice of teaching reading in the last 40 years, was found to be completely wrong.16 The United States Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have supported the review of hundreds of studies done in recent years on reading instruction and disabilities. This body of research confirms that the swing away from phonics instruction to a singular whole-language approach has made it more difficult to lift children with learning difficulties out of the downward learning spiral and , in fact, may impede the progress of many students in learning to read with ease.


It is now known that a thorough knowledge of the alphabetic basis of written language is an absolute necessity for good reading. Yet, learning this part of reading is the source of greatest difficulty for most children. And there is no way to by-pass these essential skills. In a recent Newsweek issue, November 22, 1999, Reid Lyon, chief of the child development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) states that "Phonics is non-negotiable. You have to learn it." Dr. Keith E. Stanovich, a leading expert from Canada, in an article entitled, "Romance or Reality," in the January issue of The Reading Teacher, a publication of the International Reading Association, states:

"That the direct instruction in alphabetic coding facilitates early reading acquisition is one of the most well established conclusions in all of behavioral science."

Over time, researchers have come to the recognition that reading is one of the most complex behaviors that humans can learn to perform. In saying that reading is complex, it means that many areas of the brain are actively employed and that fluent reading requires many networks of brain cells to work together. To read, humans must translate a visual symbol system into speech and translate speech into meaning. When the reader's eyes scan the symbols on the page, many circuits of the brain extract meaning from the words represented by strings of letters. Reading is not, therefore, a natural act. Unlike speaking, it is not a biologically evolved skill. It must be learned.


Therefore, in order to be more successful at teaching all children to read well, it must be recognized that teaching reading to most school children is a complicated and difficult task. In the same Newsweek report, Louisa Moats, another NICHD researcher stated, "Teaching reading is rocket science. Our profession has underestimated how much and what kind of training teachers need." A program that intends on having an impact on all children's learning must apply this knowledge and training.

5. Measured Outcomes
Individual reading achievement tests are administered before and after each l0 week session to assess the progress made. Test results are shared with the child and parent at the end of each term. In addition, daily curricular measures are made and recorded by the child in order to plot their progress. The child and parents are thus able to know how well they are doing during the course of the term.

6. Other Sources of Funding
The Everybody Reads Program charges a minimal tuition based on a household income Sliding Fee Scale. Currently, most families pay between $50 and $200 per child. Our cost is about $450 per child. Tuition revenues have been close to $20,000 during the first year. The plan is to sustain this during 2001 and increase it substantially when the program is expanded in 2002. Tuition revenues account for about 40% of our expenses. The remaining 60% were met mostly from voluntary teaching and administrative time and drawing on some contributions towards the end of the year.


During the last four months of fund raising, $10,000 has been raised, plus about $2000 of in-kind furniture and office equipment contributions. Two local businesses contributed $1,000 each. The Wells Fargo Foundation contributed $2,000, the Herbert A. Templeton Foundation contributed $5,000 and The Ralph and Adolph Jacobs Foundation contributed $1,000. Decisions from the Paul Allen Foundation and Starbucks' Literacy Program are pending.

7. Sustained Funding
Funding the Everybody Reads program will be a yearly endeavor. We are hopeful that some tuition revenues will increase, but, if the program is to target working families in this area, tuition revenue is not expected to meet all of the costs. The high level of teacher/administration time will not be able to be sustained without full funding. The cost of high quality teaching and administration will have to be met by a continuing to appeal to local businesses and foundations for the necessary additional funds.

8. Staff
In order to meet the stated goals of this program, very good teachers are needed to implement the programs and the approach. The teachers need to understand the approach and know how to apply it. They also need to be very skillful with children. They need to be able to get to know each child within a relatively short period of time and be able to motivate them to put forth their best effort each day. The Everybody Reads' teachers have the experience and training to accomplish this. In addition to an administrator/teacher, the program presently hires and trains three teachers. Any expansion of the program will require the same kind of hiring and training of additional teachers.


The administrator and head teacher of the ER program is Charles Arthur, executive director and founder of the Mastery Learning Institute. In his thirty years in education, Mr. Arthur has worked with children from ages six to thirteen in special education programs who had severe learning and behavior problems, as well as children in regular classrooms. Most recently, he developed, raised funds, administered and taught first grade for the widely publicized Cornerstone research project. This project gathered data on the impact of mastery learning based curriculum on children in grades one and two who attended a low-income elementary school in east Multnomah county. Mr. Arthur now provides staff development and training in mastery learning programs to teachers for the SRA publishing company. As a past recipient of the Association of Direct Instruction's "Teacher of the Year Award" , Mr. Arthur has three Master's Degrees and has completed post graduate work at Boston College. He currently teaches a course on "Strengthening Reading Skills" at Portland State University. He is well versed in the field of reading instruction and literacy and is highly skilled in teaching children how to read and how to improve on their reading.

Multnomah County School Districts' Free or Reduced School Lunch Figures

Percent of School Population Receiving Seervices 10

 DISTRICT

1990

1999

INCREASE
 Portland SD

35.49%

40.85%

13%
 Parkrose SD

25.66%

46.86%

45%
 Reynolds SD

20.63%

46.84%

56%
 Centennial SD

18.33%

28.07%

34%
 David Douglas

26.03%

45.20%

42%
 Gresham SD

11.69%

21.48%

45%
 Combined five east county districts, excluding Portland

20%

36%

44%


Average Percent of Children Meeting 1999 State Reading Benchmarks

Accordiing to School Economic Levels

PORTLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT

 

 3rd graders

4th graders

5th graders
 State Average

81%

69%
 District Average

78%
 

68%
 National Average  

56%
 

Reading Socio-Economic Status of School Buildings in Portland SD

 High SES: n=11

 Middle SES: n=22

Low SES: n=33

 3rd grade and 5th grade

3rd grade and 5th grade

3rd grade and 5th grade

 93% and 90%

85% and 83%

69% and 54%

FIVE EAST MULTNOMAH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

 

 3rd graders

5th graers
 Combined Averages

74%

61%

Readiing Socio-Economic Status of School Buildings in County SDs

 High SES: n=5

Middle SES: n=29

Low SES: n=11

 3rd grade and 5th grade

 3rd grade and 5th grade

3rd grade and 5th grade

 83% and 73%

77% and 66%

71% and 55%

 

The consequences for not closing this gap in reading instruction are serious. The National Research Council concluded that "educational careers of 25 to 40 percent of American children are imperiled because they do not read well enough, quickly enough, or easily enough to ensure comprehension in their content courses in middle and secondary school." The 1998 report continues to state that, "although difficult to translate into actual dollar amounts, the costs to society are probably quite high in terms of lower productivity, underemployment, mental health services, and other measures."

Children having difficulty learning to read say that they do not like to read, primarily because it is such hard work.13 As one adolescent said, " I would rather have a root canal than read." 14 One researcher found that 40 percent of the poor fourth grade readers claimed that they would rather clean their room than read. One child stated, "I'd rather clean mold around the bathtub than read." 15 According to the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, children with mild, but persistent, reading difficulties are affected in many ways: they socialize less or do the opposite and act out, engage in fewer extracurricular activities in school, curtail their education before their career aspirations may be realized, and are less likely to develop into people with diverse involvements and interests.

It is no exaggeration to say that how well children learn to read profoundly affects how well they do throughout their school years ­ and their lives. Children who quickly develop the skills necessary to read with fluency and comprehension gain access to all the world's knowledge. They acquire the power to educate themselves and to expand their range of thought and reflection. Children who do not develop these skills become caught in a downward spiral of frustration and failure.

The Everybody Reads program brings to this situation a powerful and straightforward approach that focuses on what research shows is most important to beginning and weak readers. The most effective programs available are used, programs that have been developed right here in Oregon. It is this approach, the experience and knowledge of the teachers, and the low cost, that makes the program unique. Student results from the last three quarters of 1999 and 2000 support this contention. No other program like this exists in the Portland area. More details about this program can be found on our web site: www.teleport.com/~carthur.