America’s schools are responsible for meeting the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) must provide a wide range of resources and support to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
On May 10, 2011, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the LEARN Act that will offer grants to support instruction, intervention and professional development for teachers and other support personnel such as reading coaches. The Act authorizes federal literacy funds to be used for Multi-tier System of Supports (or Response to Intervention as it is also known) to help struggling learners from birth through high school. The IDA has long advocated for this addition to federal literacy laws and continues to push for it on a state-by-state basis. The MODEL State Literacy Law, prepared by the Government Affairs Committee, clearly states the requirement for MTSS in all classrooms and the requirement that all at risk students learn to read. It further requires all Teachers-of-Reading to have the skills necessary to utilize the scaffolding of these support systems with diverse student populations. The goal is to have federal ESEA funds directly available to the states to ensure that both Teachers-of-Reading and students receive the supports they need to ensure all children learn to read, write and think critically about what they have read.
When the ESEA came up for renewal in 2001, it included several major changes such as mandating that states use Title I funds to start to close the achievement gap between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups, that testing of students in math and reading be mandatory in grades 3-8 and once again in high school, and that a sample of the students take the NAEP to compare scores state to state. The ESEA is now due to be reauthorized, and Congress is discussing how to make changes/revisions to the current law.
The ESEA requires that the reauthorization proposal will increase support for the inclusion and improved outcomes of students with disabilities. The proposal will help ensure that teachers and leaders are better prepared to meet the needs of diverse learners, that assessments more accurately and appropriately measure the performance of students with disabilities, and that more districts and schools implement high-quality, state- and locally-determined curricula and instructional supports that incorporate the principles of universal design for learning to meet all students’ needs.
In March of this year, President Obama said he would like Congress to reauthorize the ESEA, with revisions. President Obama, together with the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has proposed a plan that places emphasis on making sure students are ready for college and the workplace. The Administration has also indicated willingness to support a major component focused on literacy in the new ESEA. Senator Murray’s proposed LEARN Bill would replace Reading First as the literacy component to the ESEA and support state literacy teams in developing comprehensive literacy plans, pre-K to grade 12. Tell your elected officials that you support funding for literacy. Please visit http://help.senate.gov and drop your Senators an email and tell them you support this important literacy bill and that it will help millions of students. Mention the importance of literacy and academic achievement for all students, especially our Seeds students (struggling readers, English language learners, economically disadvantaged youth, dyslexia andspecific learning disabilities students) who need literacy support the most.
-Claire Mullins, IDA Government Affairs
A few months ago we told you about literacy efforts in Wisconsin seemingly coming to halt following mid-tem elections and a change in leadership. Now comes the exciting news that the Governor of Wisconsin has kicked off a blue ribbon task force to improve and reform reading outcomes, with a goal that all students read proficiently by the end of third grade. The majority of the people on the task force seemingly understand and support scientifically-based instruction, valid and reliable assessment, early intervention, better teacher training in institutions of higher education, and a rigorous teacher content knowledge examination in the foundations of effective reading instruction. Members of the task force include Dr. Marcia Henry, Past President of the International Dyslexia Association; Tony Pedriana, retired Milwaukee Public School principal and author of Leaving Johnny Behind: Overcoming Barriers to Literacy and Reclaiming At-Risk Readers; and one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition (www.wisconsinreadingcoalition.org), Steve Dykstra. In addition, there are three legislators with whom the Wisconsin branch of the IDA has worked extensively; a former teacher who now works for the Rowland Reading Foundation, LETRS affiliate site and publisher of reading programs; the Executive Director of Wisconsin Literacy, the umbrella organization for literacy service organizations throughout the state; a researcher with the Value Added Research Center at UW-Madison; the Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction; and a representative of the Wisconsin State Reading Association, the state chapter of the IRA. The panel is rounded off with a first grade teacher and a representative from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.
A wide variety of topics were discussed at the April 25th meeting, including levels of reading achievement in Wisconsin and other states, the importance of early childhood preparation and prompt intervention for struggling readers, different approaches to teaching reading, teacher preparation and professional development, and examples of best practices in reading instruction both within and outside of Wisconsin. We invite readers to view the archived video for a better understanding of the information shared and opinions expressed.
Future meetings of the task force will be held approximately once a month, with the next meeting focusing on preparation of teachers in institutions of higher education. Suggestions were made to bring in representatives of higher education in Wisconsin, as well as experts in essential knowledge and practice standards for teachers of reading.
-Mary Newton, JD, CALP and Cheryl Ward, MS, CALP, IDA Wisconsin
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