Legislative Action Team Advisory

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Write your Congressman to cosponsor the Striving Readers Act

Write your Congressman to cosponsor the Striving Readers Act
In February, IRA asked you to contact your senators and urge them to become cosponsors of the Striving Readers Act (S. 958), and your efforts have truly paid off. The legislation now has 16 bipartisan cosponsors in addition to the bill’s original sponsors, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

On May 14, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) introduced similar legislation (H.R. 2289) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and IRA is again asking you to reach out to your members of Congress.

In the past year, IRA, along with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Alliance for Excellent Education, has advocated for an expansion of the Striving Readers program. Initiated by President Bush in 2004, Striving Readers aims to enhance the overall level of reading achievement in middle level and high schools through improvements to the quality of literacy instruction across the curriculum, improve the literacy skills of struggling adolescent readers, and help build a strong scientific research base around specific strategies that improve adolescent literacy skills.

Although never authorized by Congress, Striving Readers received more than $30 million in FY 2007. However, this funding level only supports grants in eight school districts and is not nearly enough to address the more than 8 million students in grades 4–12 who read below grade level. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education received 148 applications for those eight grants, showing that there is a clear need for an additional investment. Although the federal government allocates more than $1 billion annually for the Reading First program ($72 per child in grades K–3), only 13 cents is provided for each middle level and high school student.

The Striving Readers Act would authorize $200 million in FY 2007 with annual increases up to $1 billion in FY 2011 for grants that would be awarded to states on a formula basis according to poverty levels and eighth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Local districts could then use these funds to develop schoolwide literacy plans and provide professional development for school leaders and teachers in core academic subjects to create “a culture of literacy” within the schools.

Please contact your representative and encourage him or her to cosponsor the Striving Readers Act (H.R. 2289). Although a draft form letter has been provided for you, it is suggested that you personalize the message with stories from your own school.

If your Reprsentative has already sponsored H.R. 2289, please send them a thank you note.

H.R. 2289: Sponsored by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA)
Cosponsors as of May 15, 2007: Boyd (D-FL), Chandler (D-KY), Hínojosa (D-TX), McGovern (D-WA), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rogers (R-AL), Bonner (R-AL), Regula (R-OH), Grijalva (R-AZ), Altmire (D-PA), Hirono (D-HI)

Personalize areas in bold


The Honorable NAME
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr/Mrs. NAME:

I am a (Fill in your title/occupation) working at (your school) in (city/state). I ask you to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 2289 The Striving Readers Act of 2007 which was introduced on May 14, 2007 in the United States House of Representatives by Congressman John Yarmuth and Congressman Todd Plats.

This bill will vastly expand the capacity of schools to help older students who struggle with reading by establishing adolescent literacy initiatives aimed at increasing high school graduation and college readiness.

As a teacher I see everyday the need for additional reading instruction for my students. (Give very short personal example of how funds could be used to)
• increase the number of student receiving instruction
• increase the number of middle and high schools in your district who could implement adolescent literacy into their curriculum.
• increase the number of teachers in professional development courses
• any other ideas

This legislation will expand and authorize the current Striving Readers Program that funds only eight grants. The Striving Readers Act of 2007 (H.R. 2289) will make funding available to every state to implement school wide adolescent literacy programs, support statewide initiates, and allow data collection and rigorous evaluation to document program success. In addition, this bill will prepare teachers to incorporate literacy strategies in core academic classes and will assist parents by training them to support their children’s literacy development.
Every child has the right to quality reading instruction by a qualified reading professional. Please support the Striving Readers Act of 2007 (H.R. 2289).

Thank you,

Monday, May 14, 2007

First Lady Endorses Yarmuth's Striving Readers Act

Congressman John Yarmuth

Representing Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District


Monday May 14, 2007


Stuart Perelmuter 202.225.5401

First Lady Endorses Yarmuth's Striving Readers Act
Legislation, Introduced Today, Focuses on Youth Literacy

(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) introduced legislation that, by 2012, will work to improve lagging literacy levels for students in grades 4 - 12. The bill, which Congressman Yarmuth hopes will be a key piece of the reauthorized No Child Left Behind law, received an unexpected endorsement at the 'National Summit on America's Silent Epidemic' from First Lady Laura Bush.

"[No Child Left Behind] will expand the Striving Readers program, which uses research-based instruction to help middle and high school students read at grade level or better..." the First Lady said from the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center last week. "By learning to read well, these students were preparing for every other subject -- for history, for math, for science, for language, for art. They were building a strong academic foundation for high school and college, and for the rest of their lives."

Seventy percent of America's middle and high school students read below their grade level, putting them in danger of dropping out of school. Research shows that the Striving Readers pilot program makes great strides in bringing students up to speed and helping them master college preparatory material.

The program would create a 5-year grant program to help states and local education agencies establish literacy programs. States and schools would use these funds to create school literacy teams, provide adolescent literacy training for teachers and school leaders, improve reading curriculum, and involve parents in adolescent literacy instruction. The legislation is modeled after the Striving Readers pilot program, which serves eight districts nationwide, including one in Danville, Kentucky.

Currently, nearly $4 billion is spent annually on remedial education, but Yarmuth's legislation would reach children earlier, ensuring that they have the resources, personal attention, and parental involvement they need to address the problem early.

"The Striving Readers pilot program has been very effective, right here in Kentucky, at helping students, who are on the verge of dropping out of high school, graduate and become legitimate candidates for a full college education," Congressman Yarmuth said of the bill which has already received broad bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the National Education Association, the Kentucky Reading Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and dozens of other education organizations and professional associations.

Brenda Overturf, President of the Kentucky Reading Association recently presented Congressman Yarmuth with a stack of letters from educators in the community, thanking him for his commitment and initiative in the area of education. "This bill will make a tremendous impact in literacy nationwide, and I am so thankful to be represented by Congressman Yarmuth, who has taken the initiative to make it happen."

The bill will be referred to committee and Congressman Yarmuth is hoping to include the bill in the No Child Left Behind reauthorization this summer.