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Bolster Graduation Rates and Long-term Earnings By Helping Kids Learn to Read

Students’ ability to read by third grade is one of the most important factors in determining their high school graduation outcomes, overall earning potential, and even their future contributions to a state’s economy. Yet, two-thirds of students in America are not proficient in reading when they enter fourth grade, leading to lower high school graduation rates, worse health outcomes, and lower lifetime earnings. The Pre-K to Grade 3 Literacy Support Act helps states expand evidence-based literacy support for kids to help all students thrive in school and beyond.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Colorado (12), Vermont
Even if a state has enacted a policy, there may be aspects to be strengthened. We can help identify ways to improve lives in your state. Please reach out to our State Line: 1-833-STATES-1.

In The News

“America’s fourth and eighth graders are losing ground in their ability to read literature and academic texts, according to a rigorous national assessment released Wednesday that is likely to fuel concerns over student achievement after decades of tumult on the educational landscape. Two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Education Department.”
“Yet according to the latest state assessments, only 56 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient in reading. That number has remained relatively flat for years. Broken down by race and special status, the proficiency rates are even more alarming: Minnesota now has the widest gap in reading scores between white and nonwhite students in the nation. Only 32 percent of black fourth-graders and 34 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are proficient in reading, compared to 66 percent of white fourth-graders.”
“If students remain behind in reading by the time they conclude third grade, they’ll be at a disadvantage in trying to master reading-intensive content in other subjects, said Chris Gdowski, superintendent of Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton. Educators widely regard third grade as a landmark year, when students shift from learning to read to reading to learn. “If you’re not caught up, you’re going to be a step or two behind in terms of your speed and the breadth of what you’re soaking in and understanding as you move into more complicated content that’s reading- and literacy-dependent in older grades,” Gdowski said.”

Partners

  • Parents
  • Teachers, educators and child care providers
  • Early childhood advocates
  • Public health experts

Opposition

  • None noted
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FAQ

Who does this policy help?
This policy helps families whose children aren’t getting the resources and support that they need to ensure their success in school and also teachers who would gain additional support for their students who are falling behind. This policy would also benefit everyone by cutting costs on healthcare, social services, criminal justice, and more. Studies show that early literacy significantly improves academic and even health outcomes, and also boosts future earnings and contributions to the economy.
Is this high cost for the state?
No. Investments in evidence-based pre-k through third grade literacy programs will more than pay for themselves through long-term reductions in the need for special education, remediation and social services, and through better health outcomes, lower criminal justice costs, and increased self-sufficiency and productivity.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the STATE Pre-K to Grade Three Literacy Support Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This act helps facilitate access to evidence-based literacy supports to help students in STATE reach literacy by grade three that supports their long-term success in school and beyond.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(A) WHEREAS:
  • (i) Research suggests that students’ ability to read by third grade is one of the most important factors in determining their success;
  • (ii) It is a goal of STATE to offer evidence-based literacy supports to promote early literacy for students across the state;
  • (iii) The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gaps in early literacy in STATE, thereby creating an even more urgent need to address early literacy across the state, while leveraging all sources of available funding;
  • (iv) These negative effects have had an even greater impact on students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities, who are found to have experienced greater loss of learning, thereby exacerbating the academic achievement gaps that existed before the pandemic;
  • (v) DEPARTMENT can play a crucial role in supporting local educational agencies by identifying and helping schools to implement evidence-based best practices for addressing these learning losses and effective strategies for boosting student learning and closing achievement gaps;
  • (vi) STATE has been and may in the future be awarded federal funding, for example through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Section 2001(f) to carry out, directly or through grants or contracts, activities to address learning loss by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment programs, extended day programs, comprehensive after school programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on at-risk student populations, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youths in foster care, including by providing additional support to local educational agencies to fully address such impacts;
(B) Accordingly,
  • (i) Within 90 days of enactment of this section, DEPARTMENT is directed to issue guidance and best practices for the delivery of evidence-based preK-grade three literacy support programs, including identifying mechanisms to expand evidence-based preK-grade three literacy supports programs through ESSER and other federal funding;
  • (ii) There is created the STATE Evidence-Based Literacy Support Program to provide grants to local education providers to implement evidence-based literacy support programs to support children’s literacy gains in preK to grade three. DEPARTMENT is authorized to promulgate regulations for such program, including that:
  • (1) A local education provider or group of providers may apply for a grant, and once awarded a grant, shall use the grant money to implement an evidence-based literacy support program that is substantially consistent with the local education provider’s program plan submitted to the DEPARTMENT. To receive a grant under this program, a local education provider’s program plan must, at a minimum, use evidence-based or scientifically based instructional programming in reading that:
  • -(a) Has been proven to accelerate student progress in attaining reading competency;
  • -(b) Provides explicit and systematic skill development in the areas of phonemic awareness; phonics; vocabulary development; reading fluency, including oral skills; and reading comprehension;
  • -(c) Includes evidence-based or scientifically-based and reliable assessments; and
  • -(d) Provides initial and ongoing analysis of the student's progress in attaining reading competency.
  • (2) DEPARTMENT shall determine allowable uses for grant money, which uses may include but need not be limited to hiring or contracting for tutors or providing stipends or other incentives to teachers, paraprofessionals, retired teachers, AmeriCorps members, and community organizations to ensure program capacity; developing curriculum and related supplies; providing professional development learning modules for teachers; covering costs associated with renting or purchasing physical space for evidence-based literacy support programs; and covering administrative expenses. A local education provider may make a request to the DEPARTMENT to use grant money for purposes other than those specified by the DEPARTMENT if the proposed use of the grant money increases the effectiveness of the evidence-based literacy support program.
  • (3) Local education providers are encouraged to offer tutors and other professionals offering services information about potential pathways into the teaching profession for the district, including learn and earn strategies in which the tutor or professional works towards educator certification while providing evidence-based literacy support services.
  • (4) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS: On or before reporting deadlines established by the DEPARTMENT, in each year in which a local education provider or group of providers receives a grant pursuant to the program, the provider or providers shall submit a report to the DEPARTMENT that includes the information required by the DEPARTMENT. At a minimum, the report must include the following information:
  • -(a) The number of students who are participated in the evidence-based literacy support program and non-identifying information, including demographic information, relating to those students;
  • -(b) Any adjustments made to the local education provider’s program plan and the reason adjustments were made;
  • -(c) How the local education provider maintained consistent access for participating students to core and non-core-academic instruction;
  • -(d) How program grants were used by the local education provider and a summary of other resources used, if any, to provide evidence-based literacy support beyond the resources provided through the program;
  • -(e) The academic achievement results or other criteria used to place students in the evidence-based literacy support program;
  • -(f) The impact or student outcomes associated with the local education provider’s evidence-based literacy support program; and
  • -(g) Whether the local education provider’s evidence-based literacy support program will continue in the following fiscal year and, if not, the reason the program will not continue.
  • (iii) Within two years of enactment of this section, and every two years thereafter, DEPARTMENT is to submit a report to the Governor and Legislature that report on progress made under the grant program and assessment of additional ways STATE can expand access to evidence-based literacy supports.
  • (iv) The report shall:
  • (1) Highlight high-performing schools and districts, including those that have improved pre-k to grade 3 early literacy using evidence-based literacy supports;
  • (2) Provide descriptions and analysis of practices that contributed to the improvements described in (a) above;
  • (3) Detail plans for expansion of existing evidence-based literacy supports, alongside proposed applications for federal, state, local, and foundation grant funding; and
  • (4) Highlight any other programs the Department identifies that would result in an efficient expansion of evidence-based literacy supports. The plan should target expansion of programs by at least 20% per year.
  • (v) To inform development of the report, local education agencies may submit to the DEPARTMENT descriptions and explanations of strategies, services, and programs that they have implemented, with evidence demonstrating their effectiveness in addressing pre-k to grade 3 literacy.
  • (vi) The report should detail which actions the DEPARTMENT can pursue on its own without additional legislative action, and, within 60 days of the plan’s publication, the DEPARTMENT shall commence those programs.
  • (vii) For aspects of the report that would require additional action by the legislature, DEPARTMENT shall include in the report specific requests and outlines of legislative action needed, including budget requests.
  • (viii) Before the DEPARTMENT advances any recommendations, the DEPARTMENT shall provide an opportunity for public and stakeholder comments, including by conducting in-person public hearings or events in different regions of the state at least four times total per report.
  • (ix) Final recommendations of the DEPARTMENT shall be posted on the department's website within thirty days after the DEPARTMENT adopts such recommendations.
(C) Definitions: “evidence-based literacy supports” as defined in this section means reading, writing, and spelling instruction that is supported by high-quality research that meets rigorous standards and is proven to translate effectively to classroom practices.