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Reading incentive program to begin in Richmond schools

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City’s elementary school students would be encouraged in learning to read by the promise of non-cash prizes.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Monday the launch of an Earning by Learning Initiative at Richmond Public Schools (RPS).

The effort, a partnership among Virginia, RPS, Harvard University’s Education Innovation Laboratory and the local business community, will encourage children to read by offering them non-cash incentives.

Students would choose books that have been approved by school personnel and receive rewards for each book they master. The prizes have yet to be determined.

The program will start with all 2013-14 second graders in the city’s elementary schools. Richmond’s three-year program will be modeled after a program in Dallas, which was been in place since 2006.

The school system will ask community partners to be reading buddies, help with school library needs and create libraries at home for children.

“Research shows that the end of third grade is a key pivot point, when children shift from learning to read to the later grades when they are expected to read to learn,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The collaborative effort, which was successfully piloted with dramatic positive results in the Dallas Public School System, has the bold but achievable goal of ensuring that all of Richmond Public School students are reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade by 2016, so that every child is on track for college and/or career success. If we can start early and align our efforts, we can ensure more children read on grade level.”

The Dallas program found that after 15 weeks, students had gained almost four months in academic growth and that students in the program were outpacing a control group a year later.

EdLabs at Harvard will track the efficacy of Richmond’s program based on test scores, report card grades, and student attendance and behavior.

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