Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 10, 1997
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Governor unveils bold initiative to achieve high state reading standardsOLYMPIA - Gov. Gary Locke raised the curtain today on a bold new plan to help ensure all children succeed on the new state fourth grade reading test. The Washington Reading Corps will rely upon 25,000 volunteers, supervised by 5,500 teachers, intensively tutoring second through fifth-grade students after school, on Saturdays and during the Summer to meet the tough new academic standards for reading.
In the first glimpse of his policy and budget proposals for the 1998 legislative session, Locke announced the plan at Thurgood Marshall Elementary in Seattle, where a major effort, including after-school volunteer tutoring, was launched following the release of sobering reading test scores in September.
Locke called reading the gateway skill that is the foundation for all future learning. "Reading is the master key that unlocks the doors of opportunity and success in all fields," he said. "Children who aren't reading well by the time they leave fourth grade face tremendous obstacles to achievement. We must intervene before children fall behind in reading. Through this new effort, we will provide intensive help to more than 82,000 students beginning in the second grade," Locke added.
The initiative would cost $24 million in state funds and $4 million in federal funds. The money would be used to pay for transportation and materials for the program, and would cover salary costs for teachers working in the program and supervising volunteers. More than 2,700 tutors - high school and college students - would be paid a small salary.
The Washington Reading Corps targets students who might otherwise fail to meet the standard on the new fourth-grade state reading test. Results from a new second-grade reading test authorized under a measure signed by Locke into law last Spring will help identify students who are struggling the most to master reading skills.
Locke emphasized that while the state's new academic standards for reading are high, they can be achieved. "The Washington Reading Corps represents my commitment to leave no child behind as we raise academic standards in our schools," Locke said. "At the same time, we're presenting individuals and businesses in the community with an unsurpassed opportunity to make a huge difference in this state and in the lives of young students by tutoring."
Students will receive at least 80 hours of instruction with no more than four students per instructor. Tutor and teacher training will be provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the nine regional educational service districts across the state. Volunteers will be asked to contribute at least 40 hours of tutoring during the school year or the Summer.
The goal of the initiative is to help schools bring the performance of all students up to the high levels outlined in state standards by targeting those who have the greatest need for assistance. About 48 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded the standard for reading on the first administration of the new test this year. Forty-six percent of the fourth-grade students scored "below" the standard, while another 6 percent did not take the test.
Locke said the program sets a very ambitious goal for volunteer tutor recruitment. "The only way to ensure all students meet the demanding new reading standards is to mobilize the entire community in an all-out effort to give students the one-on-one attention they need to master reading skills," he said. "The hope and opportunity of every schoolchild in this state depends in large measure upon achieving this goal."