Bill requires principals, administrators complete early literacy training

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO): A bill requiring that Colorado principals and administrators serving grades K-3 and literary specialists teaching grades four-12 take early literacy training passed the Senate this week and will move to Gov. Polis’ desk for signing.

The bill caps a years-long effort to require evidence-based literacy training in the science of reading for Colorado’s educators.

School leaders are responsible for deciding what reading programs to use and who to hire to best teach their students to read. Supporters of the bill hope the training will educate them on what helps struggling readers meet grade-level standards the most.

According to Chalkbeat Colorado, “There are just over 1,000 elementary principals in Colorado, and hundreds of additional school administrators who would be required to take science of reading training under the bill. Some have already taken the K-3 teacher training along with their staff.”

The bill requires these positions to complete evidence-based training by the start of the 2024-2025 school year or risk losing state funding earmarked by the READ act.

Training required for all literary specialists

Proponents of the bill fought to include reading specialists who teach kids in grades four-12, according to a representative from COKID. Kids don’t magically stop needing intervention past the third-grade level.

The 2019 revision to the READ act included only K-3 teachers. But the law states that while READ plans are established in grades K-3, a READ plan must remain in place until the child achieves grade-level competency.

Many children receive specialized literacy instruction through an IEP or READ plan well past third grade.

The science of reading

Most of us don’t think much about how we learned to read. It seems like a natural extension of learning to walk, talk and eventually learn for ourselves. But, Reading Rockets, a national literacy initiative, reports nearly 10 million children have difficulties learning to read.

Tens of thousands of research studies in the last 20 years have found what matters and what works when teaching reading, according to the NWEA, a non-profit that offers Pre-K–12 assessments and professional learning offerings.

“Research is clear about what matters to teach in early literacy instruction: phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, fluency, vocabulary and oral language comprehension, and text comprehension,” writes the NWEA.

But, not all literacy programs align with the research and some rely on context clues rather than decoding to help a child read.

Reading Rockets says that skilled readers don’t rely on pictures or sentence context in word identification because they have the phonics skills to decode words they don’t recognize quickly.

Rather, it’s unskilled readers who depend on context to compensate for poor word identification.

2019 Amendments to the READ Act

The Colorado legislature passed the Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act) in 2012 to ensure all Colorado students read at grade level by the end of third grade.

Research shows that kids who aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

After six years, the Colorado Department of Education found only a two percent increase in the number of third-graders meeting or exceeding expectations on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests.

Amendments to the READ Act require districts to use a reading curriculum backed by science, training on reading instruction for educators grades K-3, and more oversight on how districts are spending per-pupil funds given to them by the state for struggling readers.

Many districts are still working on completing the requirements, including Douglas County, which will switch to a new reading program in the 2022-2023 school year.

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