The groundbreaking aspect of this contract is that the Army and Marines are jointly developing the controls and launcher. Superintendent Don Murphy is hoping additional funding will stay in the state education budget so he can expand the Alabama Reading Initiative in Morgan County schools. According to Murphy, acting State Superintendent Joe Morton said that $26 million for the reading initiative is in the proposed budget that the state Legislature is considering for the 2005 fiscal budget year.
Research shows that if a child leaves third grade and hes behind in reading, its so much harder to catch up. The Alabama Reading Initiative provides research-based professional development for teachers aimed at strengthening reading and helping struggling readers through reading coaches and ARI staff. Danville-Neel and Falkville elementaries joined ARI four years ago, Australian Taxation followed by Priceville and Sparkman elementaries. The state provides funding and training for the original two schools, but Morgan has to pay for Priceville and Sparkman to be in the initiative, including the salaries of a reading coach.
Murphy would like to add at least six reading coaches for 11 elementary/middle schools and five high schools. He estimated the cost would be $350,000, including funding the Priceville-Sparkman reading coach with state money. Murphy said every school does not have to join ARI, but he wants every school to have reading emphasis. Im not saying that schools not in ARI are not doing a good job, Murphy said. Danville-Neel Principal Jeremy Jones said he has been extremely pleased with the success of ARI in his school.
He said ARI is a major factor in his schools improvement from a B- grade in 1999 to an A grade on the Stanford Achievement Tests in 2003. Jones said ARI taught his staff new ways to teach and gave his staff a focus. He said a schools teachers must support the program for it to be successful. ARI didnt put us on the same page, but it did put us in the same chapter, Jones said.