State education leaders explain challenges and victories in promoting the science of reading.

State Efforts for Improved Literacy

  • Progress is being made in various states in enhancing literacy education, leading to enhanced access to high-quality instructional materials, expanded professional development opportunities, and dedicated funding for improving students’ reading skills. This was highlighted by state education leaders from Indiana, Rhode Island, and Texas during a webinar organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers on Tuesday.
  • Although these states are moving towards prioritizing literacy enhancements, the education leaders acknowledged the challenging nature of this endeavor. It necessitates sustained efforts over multiple years, continuous monitoring of progress, and the realignment of priorities to support literacy goals effectively.
  • State education agencies need to cultivate consensus among various stakeholders, including communities, businesses, educators, parents, and higher education institutions. Additionally, they should offer support to assist schools and districts in strengthening their capacity for science-based reading instruction, as highlighted by the leaders.

Insights on Literacy Initiatives

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently published resources detailing states’ efforts to implement effective literacy programs, building on a 2021 report aimed at enhancing reading proficiency.

The first resource showcases the progress states have made in developing science-based reading policies and instructional strategies. It highlights the significant rise in states with such policies—expanding from Mississippi alone in 2013 to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa by February 2022.

The report also indicates that states collectively allocated almost $900 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for literacy initiatives.

Another resource by CCSSO delves into state-specific legislation and implementation, encompassing descriptions of instructional resources and educator training.

During the CCSSO webinar, Indiana’s Secretary of Education, Katie Jenner, illustrated how the state agency used heat maps to present literacy data across the states. These maps aid in identifying areas requiring support and those exceeding expectations, fostering a comprehensive understanding of literacy needs.

Moreover, Indiana collaborated with stakeholders to streamline state standards, aiming to reduce the burden on educators and enhance assessments with year-round checkpoints, offering a more holistic evaluation approach.

Rhode Island aims to surpass Massachusetts in literacy performance by 2030, as articulated by AngĂ©lica Infante-Green, the state’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. The strategic plan involves assessing literacy curriculum efficacy to allocate support effectively and overcome instructional barriers.

Shannon Trejo, Deputy Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, emphasized Texas’s investments in professional development, literacy programs for English learners, and initiatives to prepare students for post-secondary success through a foundational literacy approach.

Meanwhile, Senator Bill Cassidy issued a report advocating for urgent action to address declining literacy levels nationwide. The report underscores the consequences of low literacy rates, including elevated dropout rates and economic repercussions.

Cassidy emphasized the critical need for enhanced literacy instruction, emphasizing the role of states in advancing literacy outcomes to ensure students achieve proficiency in reading.

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