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"Students that have benefited from a focus on reading in the early grades are making dramatic improvement," Bush said.

Last month, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) signed the Middle Grades Reform Act-legislation that will put reading coaches in 240 middle schools throughout the state and provide more rigorous middle school coursework to help prepare students for high school.

“Students that have benefited from a focus on reading in the early grades are making dramatic improvement,” Bush said. “This legislation will drive the success of Just Read, Florida! into our middle schools.” Just Read, Florida! is a comprehensive, coordinated reading initiative aimed at helping every student become a successful, independent reader; Governor Bush created the program in September 2001 through an executive order.

After signing the Middle Grades Reform Act, Bush announced $16.7 million in grants to place reading coaches in Florida’s lowest-performing middle schools. Approximately 282 coaches will provide onsite professional development for 2,275 teachers and help them teach reading effectively to their students. It is estimated that more than 285,000 middle school students will benefit from this effort.

Beginning in the 2004-05 school year, the Middle Grades Reform Act also requires each public school having more than a quarter of its students in any grade in grades six through eight not reading on grade level to develop a Rigorous Reading Requirement as the primary component of its school improvement. Additionally, for each sixth-grade student who scores below Level 3 in reading on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a Personalized Middle School Success Plan-detailing how the school will help improve a student’s skills, based on the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses-will be developed in collaboration with the student and their parent and teacher.

“Based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2003 reading assessment, approximately 32 percent of Florida eighth-grade students read below ‘basic,'” said Susan Frost, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “This initiative looks like an important first step toward making sure these students and their teachers have the extra help they need to raise student achievement by focusing on literacy instruction.”

More information on Just Read, Florida! is available at

Texas Study Finds Very Low Literacy Levels Among Inmates

Almost one-third of the inmates released from Texas prisons in 2002 were functionally illiterate, according to a study commissioned by theDyslexia Research Foundation of Texas. Similar results were discovered among youths freed from Texas Youth Commission lockups, where 43 percent of offenders were classified as needing special education and only 8.3 percent read at grade level.

“The individual findings are significant because it tells us a lot more about the root causes for why people don’t succeed,” said Tony Fabelo, the author of the study and national criminal justice consultant. “There is a basic issue here: If people can’t read, their chances of making it on the outside are considerably diminished,” he told the Austin-American Statesman.

Within three years of release, 52 percent of the youths were back in jail. Of those who obtained their GEDs while in prison, only 30.4 percent were reincarcerated. The study found that Texas spends $12 million in future prison costs for every 1,000 nonreaders who are released from prison, because their rate of recidivism is higher, compared to $7.2 million for those who can read. Additionally, for every 100 youth offenders released who have a second-grade reading level, the costs to taxpayers for future incarceration will be almost $2.6 million more than those who read at the eleventh-grade level. Again, the recidivism rate, which is 62 percent for the second-grade reading level, compared to 36 percent for the eleventh, is responsible for the additional cost.

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