LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Twenty-one schools around Kentucky are taking part in a program designed to boost literacy.
The program, called the Kentucky Content Literacy Consortium, is part of a $17 million Striving Readers grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
A consortium that includes seven school districts, the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, The University of Louisville, the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development at the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Education, is administering the money.
School districts participating in the five-year, federally funded program include Danville Independent Schools in Boyle County, Eminence Independent Schools in Henry County and districts in Bullitt, Jessamine, Washington, Rowan and Pike counties.
The program is in middle and high schools - two groups traditionally overlooked in favor of targeting literacy in lower grades.
"A lot of people think that by the time students get to middle school or to high school they should have the basic skills they need to have," said Amy Awbrey, a project director at The Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, a Louisville-based nonprofit that created the literacy model being used by the schools. "Of course, we know they don't."
The funds come from the Striving Readers program launched by the federal government last year after mounting national concerns about poor reading skills among middle and high school students.
A number of factors contribute to older students struggling, educators said, including the rising number of students learning English, as well as poor teaching methods, chaotic home lives, low expectations for some students, cultural bias and the fact that older students simply don't read enough.
"I know there are lots of needs in all school districts, but when you are in the rural part of Kentucky, you don't have as many resources as the cities and the suburban areas," said Kathy Belcher, the grant's project director who is based in Danville.
To qualify for funds, schools had to show academic need and that at least 40 percent of their students participate in free and reduced lunch.
Under the program, teachers use a variety of strategies, from a note-taking system that helps students focus on the main idea of a paragraph to a group activity that fosters brainstorming and teamwork.
All the teachers use the same strategies, regardless of subject, allowing students to build literacy skills throughout the day. The grant also provides literacy coaches at each participating school.
The University of Kentucky will conduct research about how the program works.
Malisa Russell, a math teacher at Bernheim Middle School in Bullitt County, said stressing vocabulary in class has helped her students.
"It's not just learned, and then forgotten," Russell said. "Math is a building subject, and I've noticed their understanding and comprehension has gone up."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved