Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Reading Initiative News Conference
November 20, 2002

Thank You, Eric, for that kind introduction.

Today is an exciting day for education, and education reform, in our state.

I excited to be here at Sanislo announcing our new Washington State Reading Initiative. I am also looking to joining the Partnership for Learning and others in launching GreatSchools.net later today.

GreatSchools.net is an innovative new Internet tool that will empower Washington parents to know just how well our schools are performing. Today Washington becomes one of the few states in the nation with this tool.

This morning's focus is on reading, the most fundamental of all skills. This afternoon brings great news for parents. So we are truly taking significant steps forward in our mission to provide a top-notch education to every child in our state.

I want to congratulate Principal Eric Nelson and all the administrators and teachers for the great work you’re doing here at Sanislo Elementary.

Six years ago only 23 percent passed fourth grade reading standards; now almost 80 percent! That’s truly amazing. That’s most impressive. Congratulations!

By helping students improve their reading skills, you’re turning challenges into opportunities. Frustration into hope.

The three young people who just read to us are proof. I’d like to thank Alex Cloud, Josh Peck and Mahkayla (muh-KAY’-luh) Steele for sharing their progress with us. Keep up the great work!

Alex, Josh and Mahkayla overcame tremendous obstacles in their reading.

But there are too many other kids in our state who are still struggling. These children need our help.

Reading is the key to all academic success. That’s why improving the reading skills of our young people is so critically important.

And that’s why we’re here today to launch the Washington State Reading Initiative.

The main goal of the Washington State Reading Initiative is for every child to read at grade level, or higher, by the 3rd grade. Then we want them to stay at grade level, or higher, throughout their school years.

That doesn't just mean Washington students on average. We need to make sure Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and other groups are not left behind.

Too many students of color and students from low-income households are being left behind today.

That is not acceptable.

A good education, including adequate or better reading skills, is a universal right.

The achievement gap is unjust. And we must close the gap. We want every child – of every ethnic group – reading at grade level or higher by the third grade.

How will we achieve our goals in reading?

· Our teachers and administrators must be well prepared and informed.

· We need ongoing high quality professional development and instructional support.

· Research-based curriculum materials must be used in all classrooms.

· We need to continue to improve and expand our efforts in early childhood education to get our kids off to a good start.

· We also need individual student assessment tools that can help teachers:
- determine students' skill levels;
- plan and modify instruction;
- and refer students to special assistance when appropriate.

We must align and update reading efforts, programs and standards with current research.

· And finally, we must introduce accountability measures. Let’s make sure we accomplish all of our objectives.

Our goal is to improve the reading comprehension of all Washington state children. The Washington State Reading Initiative is the next, logical step in pursuing that goal.

We have made progress.

Four years ago, we created the Washington Reading Corps. This program gives reading help to kindergarten through sixth graders who need it.

The Reading Corps relies on research-based tutoring and effective collaborations among schools, families, community members, Ameri-Corps, and business and state partners.

We had a great year for the Reading Corps in the 2001-2002 school year.

The Reading Corps served over 15,000 students with almost 8,200 tutors last year. More than 500,000 tutoring hours were provided to students. Students who participated for the entire school year received an average of 41 hours of tutoring.

Recent tests show the students in the program made great gains (as measured by the Kindergarten Letters and Sounds Test and the Slosson Oral Reading Test).

You all have copies of the executive summary of that report. It says:

· Students in all grades finished the year with slightly higher gains than previous years;

· And Hispanic students made larger gains than other students in second through fifth grade.

Students in Reading Corps started one year behind their classmates; by the end of participation they had virtually caught up!

We’re on the right track. We will continue to improve upon the gains we’ve made in the Washington Reading Corps.

We also launched the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge this past summer. Nearly six thousand kids met my challenge by reading at least 15 hours over the summer.

Next year, we will be expanding the Reading Challenge. We plan to partner with more schools and libraries across the state. We want even more young people to participate.

Under the strong leadership of Superintendent Bergson, we’ve made great strides in education reform and educational achievement. Progress has been especially strong in helping Washington kids improve their reading skills.

But there’s more work to be done.

I am confident that we will get there with the Washington State Reading Initiative, under the direction of Jan Hasbrouck.

Jan is a proven leader. Under her guidance, reading skills among Texas students have improved dramatically.

Terry will be introducing Jan in just a moment. You’ll learn more about her vision for this initiative.

We’ve come a long way in helping more kids in our state learn to read, and enjoy reading.

But we can’t stop. And we won’t stop. Not until all children in Washington state are reading at their grade level, or better, by the third grade.

Reading is the key to their future. And to the future of Washington state.

Access Washington