Branches of the reading initiative

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Chicago Reading Initiative (CRI) The anchor of the district’s literacy efforts, this $52 million systemwide program features literacy teachers in low-performing schools, reading “coaches” in area instructional offices and a variety of professional development programs. A mandate for two hours of reading instruction daily was extended to all elementary schools, and the framework for reading instruction is required to include four components—comprehension, fluency, word knowledge and writing.

When it was launched three years ago, CRI served 114 elementary schools with the lowest reading scores. This fall, the number of schools participating jumped to 229 schools. Each was required to hire two literacy teachers. The district picks up the tab for one; schools must pay for the other out of their discretionary funds, most often federal Title I. This year, there are projected to be 252 CRI literacy teachers paid for by CPS, and 261 paid for by the individual probation and high-retention schools.

Reading First This $15 million literacy program under the federal No Child Left Behind law focuses exclusively on early elementary grades (K-3) and is the most prescriptive of the literacy programs. For example, the grant requires that all schools administer the same literacy assessment and limits schools to a select group of reading materials. Now in its third year, there are 113 schools with Reading First grants, each of which had to apply for the grant. Not all of them are the lowest-performing schools in the system.

Advanced Reading Development Demonstration Project (ARDDP) is the least structured of the literacy programs. Now in place at 48 mid-tier schools, the two-year-old project partners schools with one of six local universities for on-site professional development. Those universities include National-Louis, Roosevelt, Chicago State, Northeastern Illinois, University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago’s Center for Urban School Improvement.

Considered by some to be a variation on the old “external partner” program, participating schools are provided with a team of experts in reading, writing and language arts who visit schools weekly. The goal is to work with teachers and reading specialists on classroom assessments and instructional strategies. Some improvements in both areas area already apparent, says a researcher who is evaluating the project.

The project is a partnership between CPS and The Chicago Community Trust, which donated $7.5 million for the effort from the Searle Fund at the Trust.