By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, CO) Douglas County schools superintendent Erin Kane said last week that 93% of the district’s Kindergarten through third-grade teachers had completed the 45 hours of required evidence-based reading training mandated by a 2019 update to the Colorado READ Act.
Kane said the seven percent who haven’t completed the training are mostly on leave or qualify under a list of potential exemptions the state board of education is considering. Colorado requires all teachers hired before June 1 to complete the training by August 1.
Those hired after June 1 must complete the training as soon as possible, or the district risks losing money earmarked for literacy instruction.
According to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), “The requirements were put into place to ensure students are being taught with scientifically proven methods on reading instruction in an effort to dramatically improve early literacy in Colorado.”
Colorado principals and administrators serving grades K-3 and literary specialists teaching grades four-12 must complete a shorter version of the training before the start of the 2024-2025 school year.
Implementing the training
The district switched its core reading programs to McGraw Hill Wonders and Benchmark at the start of this school year after being notified by the CDE that the district’s reading programs weren’t in compliance with state law.
And earlier this year, a DougCo spokesperson said it would not renew its contract with Reading Recovery, a supplemental reading instruction program that the CDE hasn’t approved. Reading Recovery uses a balanced literacy approach not rooted in the science of reading.
The CDE READ Act dashboard shows that 9.8% of DougCo students have a significant reading deficiency (SRD) and qualify for invention. According to the dashboard, only 17 students identified as having an SRD in 2018-2019 no longer qualified in 2020-2021.
Evidence-based reading instruction
According to Education Week, more than half of the states – 29 in total – have passed legislation in the past decade to bring reading instruction in line with a body of evidence called the “science of reading.”
That evidence consists of hundreds of research studies proving children best learn to read when given explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Despite a recommendation to focus on this type of structured literacy instruction from the National Reading Council, a group of literacy experts, in 2000, educators have continued to use an approach referred to as balanced literacy.
Balanced literacy curricula touch on phonics instruction but also encourage children to guess at words they don’t know by using context clues in the text rather than sounding out the sounds the letters in the word make.
According to the California nonprofit EdSource, “While about 35% of children will learn to read no matter how they are taught, according to many experts, about 40-45% will struggle without clear and consistent lessons in the fundamentals. The remaining 10-15% qualify as dyslexic, and these children benefit the most from a structured literacy program.”