Thursday, May 15, 2003

Taft: Hone reading program

OhioReads has been pet project

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft says it's time for an analysis of his OhioReads program, which provided hundreds of schools $114 million in taxpayer-funded grants during its first four years.

"We're learning more all the time, what's working, what's not working with OhioReads," Taft said in an interview. "It's now time to really assess the program and make sure we understand why OhioReads is helping where it is helping, and we can provide good solid information to all school districts."

The program has been a priority for the Republican governor since he took office in 1999. He appears in television ads and on billboards to recruit volunteer tutors for schools. He tutors children at a Columbus elementary school.

The grants are generally used to buy reading material and pay someone to coordinate volunteer tutors.

Two analyses of OhioReads data showed slightly different results. One looked at how much scores changed on the reading proficiency test at schools with and without OhioReads grants. The other looked at whether scores changed.

At schools with the biggest OhioReads grants - $30,000 a year for the first two years, usually followed by a $15,000 grant - scores on the fourth-grade reading proficiency test increased an average of 10.8 percent from the 1999-2000 school year through 2001-02, according to an analysis of data by OhioReads.

Scores increased 8.7 percent at schools without grants, the analysis showed. Reading scores for all Ohio fourth-graders rose 9.7 percent during the same period.

Of elementary schools with OhioReads grants, eight in 10 - or 80 percent - saw their reading scores stay the same or rise during the same time, according to a separate analysis by the Associated Press.

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