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Full-day kindergarten just one asset

Full-day kindergarten, reading specialists, teacher training — all are helping impact youngsters' reading skills, according to a premiere report on the state reading initiative.

About 2 dozen districts say their students are meeting first-year reading goals in various grades, states the report, compiled by the State Office of Education. Sixteen districts and two charter schools also showed students in kindergarten through third grade were meeting their goals.

Education officials hope the report can inspire future legislative support for this and other programs aiming to catch students before they have a chance to fall. The State Board of Education, for instance, wants $16 million to improve math in the critical fourth through sixth grades.

"This is just outstanding," state board member Bill Colbert said of the reading achievement report. "This will help us out at the Legislature."

The state reading program, passed in the 2004 Legislature, invested $15 million to help ensure kids read by third grade. More than $2 million of it, however, was one-time funding discontinued this year.

Districts have to match the state money to pull down their share. Some raised taxes to do it.

Districts write their own programs for using the money. Some implemented full-day kindergarten programs for disadvantaged students. Some hired literacy coaches and tutors. Some invested in instructional materials and testing tools.

The state has provided support including a reading endorsement program and a list of screening, diagnosis and progress tests.

Districts set student achievement goals to measure the efficacy of their efforts.

Thirty-five of 40 school districts and six charter schools submitted complete data for the report as of the first of September, State Associate Superintendent Christine Kearl reported.