Appearing at Carver Middle School in Orange County, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) announced the creation of a Middle Grades Reform Act that will put reading coaches in 240 middle schools throughout the state and provide more rigorous middle school classes to prepare students for high school curricula.
Governor Bush’s plan provides a ray of hope for the 49 percent of Florida’s middle school students who cannot read at grade level. Under the initiative, the state would spend $13 million on reading coaches for middle schools that have large numbers of struggling students. The act would also require schools to work with sixth-graders reading below grade level on a “personalized success plan,” which would detail how the school will help improve a student’s skills. Additionally, middle schools that have more than 25 percent of students reading below grade level would have to develop a “rigorous reading requirement” as part of their annual school-improvement plans.
Bush’s plan comes at a time of increased emphasis on adolescent literacy in secondary schools. The governor also asked the Florida Legislature to provide $21.4 million in additional funding to expand his Just Read, Florida! program beyond elementary schools. The program is a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated reading initiative aimed at helping every student become a successful, independent reader with reading skills at or above grade level by the year 2012.
The governor’s visit to Carver Middle School highlighted its two-year-old reading program. The school hired seven reading teachers to work with struggling readers. Additionally, the entire teaching staff participated in professional development classes to learn literacy strategies and to learn how to incorporate literacy into their regular class curriculum. Today, the percentage of Carver eighth-graders reading at grade level has increased from 14 percent to 24 percent.