Early Reading Programs in High-Poverty Schools: Emerald Elementary Beats the Odds

CIERA Report #3-009

Charles Fisher and Martha A. Adler
University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How are resources allocated for reading instruction in schools where low-income children are particularly successful? How do these patterns differ from other high-poverty schools with lower achievement?

This report describes the early reading program in Emerald Elementary School. From 1996 through 1998, Emerald's students performed well above its district average and above or near the state average on reading achievement. During this period, the school had at least half of its students eligible for free or reduced lunch and a student mobility rate of approximately 40%. This exceptional achievement placed Emerald among the top performing high-poverty schools in its state.

The cornerstone of Emerald's early reading program was referred to as a literacy rotation in which grade 1 students had access to four small-group instructional approaches for two hours per week. Beyond the literacy rotation, a variety of safety nets for supporting struggling readers was identified. At a broader level, several mechanisms for facilitating communication among the staff, professional development, collaboration, and participation in state and federal educational initiatives were found.

Analysis of the early reading program identified five key elements of school operation: focus on student outcomes; multiple reading programs in every classroom; shared responsibility for student success; strong leadership at school and classroom levels; and a veteran, knowledgeable staff. These elements were related to resource allocations within the school.

University of Michigan School of Education

610 E University Ave., Rm 1600 SEB
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259

734.647.6940 voice
734.763.1229 fax