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Paige chooses Aldine ISD to announce $532m grant to Texas “Reading First”

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige chose Aldine ISD’s Thompson Elementary to announce that Texas will receive approximately $79 million for the first year of a multi-year Reading First grant to help schools and districts improve children’s reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction. Paige made the announcement during a visit to the school on Friday, May 9. Joining Paige, the former superintendent of Houston ISD, was Texas Commissioner of Education Dr. Felipe Alanis, Aldine ISD Superintendent Nadine Kujawa and Thompson Elementary principal Sara McClain.

Paige said he had a very good reason for choosing an Aldine ISD school to make the announcement.

“I think the world needs to know more about Aldine ISD,” he said. “It’s a jewel. I learned a lot from Aldine about how a school system works. The leadership of this school district, from (former superintendent) Sonny Donaldson to the present superintendent, Nadine Kujawa, shows a willingness to take responsibility and not fall victim to the old excuse that good enough is good enough.”

Paige said he was impressed with the work done in Aldine in helping students attain academic success in the classroom. Despite a student population that is 75 percent economically disadvantaged, Aldine ISD has achieved a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency for six consecutive years.

Paige added that over the next six years, Texas will receive approximately $532.5 million in support, subject to the state’s successful implementation and congressional appropriations. The state’s application for the grant passed a rigorous review that judged its reading plan against 25 main review criteria.

The grant will support key improvements in classroom reading instruction, including teaching based on what research shows works, early identification and help for reading difficulties, monitoring student progress, and continuous, high-quality professional development for teachers.

“A child who can read is a child who can succeed in school and in life,” Paige said. “That is why President Bush launched a ‘Reading First’ initiative to make sure kids learn to read by third grade.

“Sending a child into the world without adequate reading skills is like building a house without first laying the foundation. Failure to learn to read early on has tremendous long-term consequences, not only for the child, but for society as a whole. By designing sound curriculum and instruction around scientific evidence, including the five essential components of proven reading instruction, children in Texas and other states will have the necessary tools they need to read well by the end of the third grade.”

Texas plans to hold a competition for eligible school districts to compete for sub-grants this spring. As part of its professional development plan, the state will hold a series of six workshops for all K-3 teachers and K-12 special education teachers.

These professional development sessions will provide intensive training on classroom reading instruction based on scientific research, so that teachers can learn to tailor instruction around sound, research-based information.