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September 7, 2005Deena Reppen
Just Read, Florida! Celebrates Fourth Anniversary
Governor Bush's reading initiative marks fourth year with proven performance record
TALLAHASSEE Governor Jeb Bush's reading initiative, Just Read, Florida!, today celebrated its fourth anniversary. Since its inception, Just Read, Florida! has provided training to more than 30,000 Florida teachers, 3,000 principals and 2,000 reading coaches to promote and improve the reading and literacy skills among Florida students. Through the Governor's leadership and strong support from the Legislature, funding for reading has increased from no dedicated reading dollars in 2001 to $143 million in 2005.
"Teaching a child to read is the greatest gift anyone can give," said Governor Bush. "Along with the dedicated teachers across the state who have embraced our reforms, Just Read, Florida!, has been a constant advocate for researched-based strategies that help students become independent readers. Floridians should be proud that regardless of race or income, students are making substantial growth in reading."
Established by Governor Bush in 2001, Just Read, Florida! is charged with establishing reading as a core value in the state with the unequivocal goal of every child being able to read at or above grade level by 2012. Educator, parent, community and corporate involvement have been key to the success of Just Read, Florida's! efforts. Since its creation, the initiative has also helped school districts implement researched-based reading programs and strategies to improve student learning.
"Of my 34 years in education, I cannot think of any other initiative that has had such an incredible and immediate impact on student reading," said Education Commissioner John L. Winn. "I applaud the hard work of educators, parents and citizens to achieve our goal of all children reading on grade level or higher."
Since 2001, the percentage of fourth grade white students reading on grade level or higher has increased from 66 percent to 81 percent. The percentage of 4th grade Hispanic students reading on grade level or higher has increased from 43 percent to 66 percent, while the percentage of 4th grade African American students reading on grade level or higher has grown from 31 percent to 56 percent. Also, The National Assessment of Educational Progress data from 2003 show Florida as the only state in the nation to demonstrate significant improvement in fourth grade reading.
"As a district reading specialist working with and training both coaches and secondary intensive reading teachers, I have observed continuous growth in their knowledge base and confidence in teaching reading. Thanks to the training efforts of Just Read, Florida! and of the continual support and training at the school district level, these efforts are making a positive difference in student achievement. I am proud to be in a state that has placed such a strong emphasis on reading," said President of Reading Supervisors of Florida Suzanne Naiman.
"Pat Fisher, our literacy coach at Umatilla High School, has offered tremendous support for my reading class. I work with struggling exceptional education students. Pat has given me advice on appropriate reading strategies for my reading classes, helped secure materials for classroom use, helped to test my students for instructional placement, and has guided me in my professional development. She is always available and accessible. I am so thankful she is here!" said Karen Dempsey, a teacher in Lake County.
Governor Bush charged Just Read, Florida! with making reading a value statewide by encouraging communities and corporations to get involved. Over the past four years, more than 200,000 books were donated statewide, many going to schools serving as hurricane shelters. In addition, more than $500,000 was donated for educator training by Florida corporations, businesses and publishers.
For more information about Just Read, Florida!, visit www.justreadflorida.com.