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LAYING DOWN THE LAW: Colorado Literacy Program Benefits Struggling Students

"We had a lot of conversations about the problems of, No. 1, businesses still having kids who don't know how to read or do math, and No. 2, the high cost of remediation at the college level."

Last week, thousands of schoolchildren celebrated the one hundredth birthday of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. In Colorado, students also celebrated the sixth anniversary of the Colorado Basic Literacy Act, a law to ensure that every student is reading at grade level.

First implemented in fall 1998, the law was sponsored by State Senator Norma Anderson (R) and former Senator Al Meiklejohn (R). “We had a lot of conversations about the problems of, No. 1, businesses still having kids who don’t know how to read or do math, and No. 2, the high cost of remediation at the college level,” Anderson told the Rocky Mountain News. “Al Meiklejohn kept saying [students] need to learn how to read by third grade and I said, ‘Al, why don’t we do a bill?’ ”

The law requires schools to assess the reading ability of students in grades K-3. Students who test below grade level are assigned an individual literacy plan (ILP), developed in cooperation with the student’s teacher and parents. The plan then follows the student from grade to grade until tests show that reading levels have improved. As part of the plan, students in the program benefit from small class sizes (fourteen students between two teachers), an at-home reading plan, and summer school.

During the first year of the program, more than forty thousand students in grades K-3 were placed on ILPs. By the time those same students were in the seventh grade, only 5,544 students remained on an ILP, meaning that more than 86 percent were considered to be reading at grade level and had tested out of the program. Next year, this initial class of ILP students will be entering high school. Preparations are already underway to accommodate students who still need additional reading help.

The complete article, which includes a detailed look at the Colorado Basic Literacy Act’s impact within Drake Middle School in Arvada, is available at,1299,DRMN_957_2693556,00.html.

National Institutes in Reading Apprenticeship Now Accepting Applications for Summer Workshop


The Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) is now accepting applications for the 2004 National Institutes in Reading Apprenticeship (NIRA). NIRA is a week-long intensive experience for teams of middle and high school teacher leaders and administrators who are ready to assume leadership roles in their school or district for improving content-area reading. Previous participants from across the country continue to report impressive changes in teacher practice and resulting improvements in student academic literacy. SLI’s research shows students in Reading Apprenticeship classrooms becoming more confident, effective, and strategic readers.

At each summer institute, up to forty participants in teams from around the United States will gather in Oakland, California, and in Baltimore, Maryland, to learn the key ideas and strategies of Reading Apprenticeship.

To learn more about the Strategic Literacy Initiative and the National Institutes in Reading Apprenticeship, please visit


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