Spartansburg Elementary School Principal Dan Daum believes in the power of reading.

“Learning to read is the most important skill students can attain in order to further their educations,” Daum said. “The earlier that skill is attained sets the course for the rest of that education.”

More elementary school children in the Corry Area School District are getting the chance to improve those reading skills this year.

A change in the way federal Title 1 dollars can be spent now gives every student in Corry’s four elementary schools the opportunity to receive additional reading instruction through the Title 1 program if they need the help.

Also, more than $1 million in Title 1 money — in addition to a one-time payment of $596,000 in federal stimulus funds — is being pumped into the school district to finance the program.

Daum, who doubles as the district’s director of federal programs, said Corry’s elementary schools previously operated under a “targeted assistance” model, in which only students who were identified through special testing were eligible to receive Title 1 instruction.

Beginning this school year, however, the state has loosened those restrictions to allow more students to get reading help. Daum said the school district met state requirements and now operates under a “schoolwide” model.

The schoolwide model opens the door for every one of the district’s nearly 1,500 students in kindergarten through sixth grade to take advantage of the Title 1 reading program.

“The targeted model was so restricted. This is so much more flexible,” Daum said. “We will see more kids benefiting.”

Additional funding also is helping the district’s 13 Title 1 instructors teach their young students skills like letter sounds and recognition, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and phonics.

The district received between $850,000 and $900,000 for Title 1 in the 2008-09 school year, Daum said. The money Corry receives is based on the number of students who receive meals through the federal government’s free- and reduced-meal program.

Those free- and reduced-meal numbers increased this year, which hurtled Title 1 funding over the $1 million mark for 2009-10, he said.

Corry will receive $596,000 in federal stimulus money that is being used to beef up the Title 1 program. The one-time payment must be spent during the next two years, Daum said.

About 250 elementary students, or about 17 percent of the total enrollment, were identified to receive Title 1 reading instruction over the past couple of years, Daum said. Those students receive daily reading instruction through Title 1.

Those “targeted” students still receive that specialized instruction. Now, however, additional students who need the help can be placed in a Title 1 classroom for as long as they need the extra help, Daum said.

See the Journal's Friday, September 25th edition for full story.

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