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Providence So-called Balanced Literacy Passes Reading First Goon Squad
Ohanian Comment: You get a glimpse of what blanced literacy means at the end of this article.

PROVIDENCE -- Providence elementary schools won a total of $1.5 million, or 8 of 11 grants, awarded by the state under the federal Reading First Program which aims to get disadvantaged children reading at grade level by the third grade.

The other three schools receiving Reading First grants are in Pawtucket.

Each school will receive $150,000 to $200,000 to hire reading coaches, conduct teacher training, and purchase materials for scientifically proven methods of teaching reading.

In Providence, the grants went to these elementary schools: Alan Shawn Feinstein on Broad Street, Alfred Lima, Charles Fortes, Laurel Hill Avenue, Mary E. Fogarty, Robert L. Bailey, Webster Avenue and Windmill Street.

Diane Schaefer, director of instruction for the state Department of Education, said Reading First builds on the so-called "balanced literacy" program used in Providence.

Balanced literacy is the label for activities that Providence school officials say are necessary to develop readers who are critical thinkers and can express themselves through written words.

But in other cities, such as Boston and New York, balanced literacy has been a barrier to Reading First grants, which are awarded by state officials acting as agents for the federal government.

Boston's application for Reading First money was rejected by Massachusetts authorities because Boston refused to do away with balanced literacy.

In New York, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has argued that the city's balanced literacy approach works better than Reading First programs endorsed by the Bush administration.

But Klein has agreed to abandon balanced literacy in 49 troubled New York schools to obtain $34 million in Reading First federal funds. The money was too much to give up, Klein has said.

The balanced literacy program in New York was introduced under the tenure of the chief academic officer, Diana Lam, who brought the same concept to Providence in 1999 when she was school superintendent. She moved to New York in September 2002.

Unlike New York, the balanced literacy approach in Providence has not suffered in the face of Reading First.

Schaefer said that balanced literacy and Reading First are compatible.

She said the money would allow each of the 11 schools to form a network of teachers with time to analyze and discuss their work beyond the school day and for two weeks in the summer.

The grants will pay for reading coaches, who will work with classroom teachers exclusively on improving reading instruction.

The coaches will address awareness that letters and sounds are related, the rules of those relationships, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary, according to Schaefer.

Each elementary school in Providence already has a literacy coach who works on reading and writing skills.

— Gina Macris
Eight Providence schools win reading grants
Providence Journal


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