We spoke with Jon Bower, literacy expert and CEO of Lexia Learning, for a quick take on managing the what, when, and how of Reading First. Following are some tips for those in charge.
* By the year 2012, 100 percent of students must be reading on grade level.
* States must apply to the federal government for Reading First funds. Districts then apply to the state for their share of the funds.
* Reading First funds are allocated for six years. Money goes to the very neediest schools for the first year or two. Later, schools and districts not fitting this profile will also be able to apply.
* Each school and district must create a plan "to get from here to there" and then measure themselves against the plan. The plan must include the use of curriculum products, teaching methods, and teacher training strategies whose success has been proven through scientific research.
* Any school not achieving adequate yearly progress must provide tutoring for under-performing students. The district must bear the cost of tutoring.
* Beginning with the 2003-2004 school year, parents will be eligible to obtain tutoring vouchers.
* If students are still not adequately achieving after two years of tutoring, parents may move them to another school in the district.
Challenge: With education budgets being slashed in almost every state, staff experienced in writing grant applications are often those losing their jobs. New writers will have to get up to speed quickly on both written communication and an understanding of scientifically based research.
Assistance: Partner with a group who "knows how." In Massachusetts, academics at the Institute of Health Professionals, which has a …