Yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education voted favorably on An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency (H.1853/S.188). In Massachusetts, 39% of Massachusetts third graders are not proficient readers, according to the 2011 MCAS. Among children from low-income families, 60% of children lag in reading. Research tells us that almost three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in third grade will continue to struggle in school, substantially reducing the likelihood that they will finish high school, attend college and contribute to our knowledge-based economy.
We applaud the co-chairs of the committee, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Peisch, and the committee members for moving the bill forward, and we commend the work of the bill’s lead sponsors, Senator Katherine Clark and Representative Martha Walz. We urge the full Legislature to support An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency.
An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency focuses on five areas that research demonstrates improve the language and literacy development of children, from birth to age 9:
- Curriculum: “Comprehensive curricula on language and literacy development for children in early education and care programs and grades pre-kindergarten to third grade, inclusive, that is anchored in rich content to be studied through thematic units; uses a wide variety of types of text to support content under study; emphasizes the role of oral language and discussion in promoting early reading skills; and contains a balanced instructional design focused on developing both meaning-based skills, such as comprehension, conceptual knowledge [and] vocabulary, and code-based skills, such as letter knowledge, letter sounds and word reading.”
- Instruction: “Effective instructional practices to promote children’s language and literacy development in early education and care programs and grades pre-kindergarten to third grade, inclusive, including tiered instructional strategies and materials.”
- Professional development: “Pre-service and in-service professional development and training for educators on language and literacy development, the administration of screenings and assessments, and the analysis of data gained through screenings and assessments to make instructional decisions to improve language and literacy acquisition in young children.”
- Assessment: “Developmentally appropriate screening and assessment to monitor and report on children’s progress toward achieving benchmarks in language and literacy development across educational levels prior to third grade and measuring school readings and children’s reading proficiency from pre-kindergarten to third grade.”
- Family partnership: “Family partnership strategies for improving the quality, frequency, and efficacy of home-school interactions to support children’s literacy and language development, as well as for building community capacity to support family literacy practices.”
The bill establishes an Early Literacy Expert Panel of 6-12 members, to be appointed by the secretary of education “in collaboration with the commissioners of the Departments of Early Education and Care, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Higher Education” and “in consultation with the Senate and House chairs of the Joint Committee on Education and the Senate and House chairs of the Joint Committee on Higher Education.”
The panel would make recommendations on the “alignment, coordination and implementation” of the five areas. It would also advise on “action steps to implement the recommendations contained in ‘Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,’” a 2010 report that Strategies for Children commissioned from Nonie Lesaux, Ph.D., a nationally recognized expert in literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
In addition, the panel would offer guidance on refining and implementing existing state plans for early literacy and would “advise on leveraging existing and new federal grant opportunities and private funding to support language and literacy acquisition for children from birth to third grade, inclusive.” The bill also directs the secretary of education to submit an annual report on the panel’s activities.
Yesterday’s action is only one step in the legislative process. The bill must be approved by the full Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick. Massachusetts readers, please click here to urge your legislators to support An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency.