The Alabama Reading Initiative

Since 1998, the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) has captured the attention of many who are interested in reading and educational reform. ARI has become known for its clear, committed, and widespread focus on a deep-rooted problem for many students—namely, poor reading achievement. ARI epitomizes the concept of systemic reform by the involvement of and support from many diverse stakeholder groups.

Photos of female student in class, from report cover.The Initiative spans the K–12 landscape and has created partnerships among schools, colleges, private organizations, and others. ARI continues to have the potential to change teacher practice, student motivation and attitudes toward literacy, and, ultimately, student achievement.

From its inception, ARI has given comprehensive attention to reading difficulties across the K–12 span—difficulties that have historically been very real in Alabama. ARI is unique among state efforts to address reading difficulties in its attention to the needs of secondary students who struggle with reading, a group that is often overlooked. Key elements of ARI include:

  • decisions by schools to apply to become literacy demonstration sites committed to a 100% literacy rate among students.
  • commitment of at least 85% of the faculty and administration to attend a two-week intensive summer institute about reading improvement and ongoing professional development throughout the school year.
  • appointment of full-time reading coaches, who work with teachers and with struggling readers.
  • collaboration between schools and higher education faculty partners, who serve as mentors, provide access to research, and help solve instructional problems related to literacy learning.
  • partnerships with local businesses.

Lessons & Recommendations from the Alabama Reading Initiative

The report reflects the results of numerous interviews with students, teachers, school and state administrators, higher education faculty, and members of nonprofit organizations in Alabama—essentially those individuals who can best trace the emergence of a distinct secondary model for ARI and who can report on what still needs to be done to make the Initiative a permanent part of Alabama middle and high school education. Additional information about ARI was gained from a survey administered to teachers in ARI secondary schools across the state.