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Reading First Impact Study: Interim Report
NCEE 2008-4016
April 2008

The Reading First Program

Reading First promotes instructional practices that have been validated by scientific research (No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). The legislation explicitly defines scientifically based reading research and outlines the specific activities state, district, and school grantees are to carry out based upon such research (No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). The Guidance for the Reading First Program provides further detail to states about the application of research-based approaches in reading (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Reading First funding can be used for:

  • Reading curricula and materials that focus on the five essential components of reading instruction as defined in the Reading First legislation: 1) phonemic awareness, 2) phonics, 3) vocabulary, 4) fluency, and 5) comprehension;

  • Professional development and coaching for teachers on how to use scientifically based reading practices and how to work with struggling readers;

  • Diagnosis and prevention of early reading difficulties through student screening, interventions for struggling readers, and monitoring of student progress.

Reading First grants were made to states between July 2002 and September 2003. By April 2007, states had awarded subgrants to 1,809 school districts, which had provided funds to 5,880 schools. Districts and schools with the greatest demonstrated need, in terms of student reading proficiency and poverty status, were intended to have the highest funding priority (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). In addition to grants for individual schools, states and districts could reserve up to 20 percent of their Reading First funds to support staff development and reading assessments, among other activities, for all high-need schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2002).