A passing reference to an initiative made midway through President Bush's State of the Union address will cast a Kansas University program into the national limelight today.
Bush's plan to pump $100 million into an adolescent reading program dubbed "Striving to Read" is likely to incorporate a model honed at KU over the past 28 years.
Don Deshler, director of the KU Center for Research on Learning, will meet today with first lady Laura Bush in Orlando, Fla., where Bush is expected to reveal more details on the literacy program.
"We see ourselves being able to play an active role in what goes on," Deshler said. "We need to see exactly what is being proposed. We could not be more thrilled."
President Bush didn't go into detail on the program in his address. But he pledged to stand behind the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates federal testing of students.
He also noted that not all students have been served well by their elementary educations, making secondary and post-secondary education a priority.
"The expectation of literacy is becoming the law of our country," Bush said.
Strategic Instruction Model
The KU program, called the Strategic Instruction Model, is aimed at junior high and high school students who read well below expectations for their grade level.
It involves several strategies, including methods for learning new vocabulary words, paraphrasing paragraphs and restating them in one's own words and creating mental pictures as one reads.
Based on their research, Deshler and his team have developed extensive instructional and supplemental materials to support the program. Deshler said KU had completed $80 million in research to develop and bolster the Strategic Instruction Model.
Today's scheduled meeting is part of an aggressive day-after effort to reinforce the messages in Bush's speech. The president and several top advisers were scheduled to fan out across the country to push White House priorities.
Laura Bush was to tour a classroom at Discovery Middle School in Orlando, which uses the Strategic Instruction Model program. Deshler will lead a panel discussion on literacy involving Bush, the school's principal and two teachers.
"This is an endorsement of the commitment that a large number of researchers, teachers and staff at KU have made over a sustained period of time," Deshler said. "We're honored by the fact the first lady will want to see a sampling of the work that's been going on at KU."
Deshler said he wasn't sure what role KU might play in the president's initiative, if it is approved by Congress. But he said he was heartened that adolescent literacy was becoming an issue when so much emphasis has been placed on early-childhood reading.
"For years and years preceding the current administration, there's just always been a greater emphasis on getting to children early," he said. "But the reality is everyone emphasizes young children, and very few things go to older ones. Things don't always get solved at the early ages."
In use in Lawrence
Ann Bruemmer, who oversees reading initiatives for Lawrence public schools, said there was no districtwide program for the Strategic Instruction Model. But she said several teachers have been trained to teach the program, and those decisions are made on a classroom-by-classroom basis.
One of the teachers who uses the Strategic Instruction Model is Karen Lyerla, who co-chairs the special education department at Lawrence High School. She said she had been sold on the program since she was involved in the pilot program at LHS in 1976.
One advantage, she said, is that the program is flexible enough for students in different situations to use it.
"The bottom line is it works, and it works every time, as long as you have that commitment from students," she said. "I've just been so pleased and impressed. These (researchers) have not rested on their laurels. They consistently go for more grants and more research to continually better their product."