Facts on Florida’s Reading Initiative

Beginning in 2001, Florida took steps to improve reading proficiency among its youngest schoolchildren. In 2012, To learn more about the initiative, The Parents’ Campaign participated in two conference calls with the staff of Florida’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a lobbying group pushing other states to adopt Florida’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act, among other school reform measures, and attended two meetings at which the group made presentations about their initiative. We learned that, for the initial implementation of the reading program, Florida had used a $300-million federal Reading First grant as well as $600-million in re-purposed state funds, in addition to new state dollars. A recent investigation of the roll-out of Florida’s reading initiative revealed the following details:

Prior to implementation of the third-grade reading retention policy, Florida took the following steps to begin addressing reading deficiencies statewide:

Just Read, Florida! launched in 2001

  • Just Read, Florida! is a comprehensive and coordinated statewide reading initiative
  • more than 45,000 teachers attended Just Read, Florida! reading academies
  • federal and state grants initially provided for more than 2,000 reading coaches in K-12 schools

Florida Center for Reading Research established in 2002

  • conducts basic research on reading, reading growth, reading assessment, and reading instruction; provides technical assistance related to literacy and research-based practices to pre-K through 12th grade schools and to the Florida Department of Education

Reading First grant awarded to Florida by U.S. Department of Education in 2002

  • Florida received $300-million over six years
  • in the first year of the Reading First grant, 2002-2003, the state received $47-million
  • the grant funded reading coaches, teacher training and materials, classroom library improvements, and other initiatives
  • over the six-year grant period, Reading First served 45 school districts, 583 schools, 14,000 educators, and more than 320,000 students

Third-grade reading retention policy established in 2003

  • Florida used the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to determine third-grade reading proficiency
  • the FCAT had been administered twice to third-graders, in 2001 and 2002, prior to the 2003 assessment on which retentions would be based
  • the FCAT reading score is not the sole determinant in Florida’s retention policy; rather, teachers and principals are allowed to evaluate student performance on alternate assessments or a portfolio of class work that demonstrates mastery of reading
  • in each year that Florida’s retention policy has been in place, only about half of the students who did not meet the cut score were retained; the other students were promoted to fourth grade for good cause exemptions (students who took alternate assessments or demonstrated mastery through a portfolio of work, certain students with disabilities, and those who already had been retained more than once)
      • In 2003, 23% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 14% were retained
      • In 2004, 22% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 11% were retained
      • In 2005, 20% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 10% were retained
      • In 2006, 19% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 8% were retained
      • In 2008, 16% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 7% were retained
      • In 2009, 17% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 6% were retained
      • In 2010, 16% of 3rd graders scored at lowest level on reading FCAT; 6% were retained
        • note: Mississippi’s law does not have the good cause exemption that allows a student to demonstrate proficiency through a portfolio or that provides discretion to teachers and principals to promote a student who has demonstrated reading proficiency but did not meet the cut score; retentions are to be based solely on one high-stakes test; students are allowed two re-takes of the assessment within a period of a few months
  • Florida’s retention policy received $66-million in funding in its first year (reprioritized state funding, $41-million; reprioritized federal funding, $6-million; new state funding, $10-million; new federal funding, $9-million), in addition to almost $100-million in federal funds received in the first two years of the Reading First grant

 Florida continues to focus policies and resources on the importance of reading:

Additional funding for reading initiatives

  • Florida continues to invest in reading annually through a reading instruction allocation to school districts
  • this allocation is available through the Florida Education Finance Program to districts that submit a K-12 comprehensive research-based reading plan which describes the reading practices that will be implemented
  • in the current school year, 2014-2015, the appropriation is $130-million; funds may be used for reaching coaches, professional development for teachers, summer reading camps for deficient readers, supplemental reading instructional materials, and intensive interventions for middle and high school students reading below grade level
  • since 2005, this allocation has directed more than $1-billion in state funds to reading instruction in schools
  • in addition to the reading instruction allocation, Florida also allows districts to use categorical funding for supplemental academic instruction (SAI) to support reading programs and interventions


Foundation for Excellence in Education

Florida Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education

Florida Senate

Florida House of Representatives

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