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March 16, 2016

State reading bill invests in students

This article originally appeared in Education Week.

To the Editor:

With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, key policy decisions about how federal education grant money will be used and what constitutes accountability in performance will soon happen at the state level.

It’s essential to define what smart state-level legislation looks like and how to maximize ESSA’s impact. In California, the Golden State Reading Guarantee, SB 1145, could serve as a model for other states to consider. This is an urgent issue for California, where last year’s new Smarter Balanced test showed 60 percent of all 4th graders were not meeting state reading standards. Unfortunately, as the Center for American Progress reported earlier this year, this issue is truly national in scope.

We risk creating a generation that will be unable to advance through school and go on to get good jobs. That’s terrible for students, worrisome for parents, and a recipe for economic disaster for our states and our nation.

Legislation like the Golden State Reading Guarantee proposes to close the reading gap by making strategic investments in students from kindergarten to 4th grade, starting with the premise that reading is the skill most fundamental to learning.

There are six critical components to the legislation.

• Individualized reading plans;

• Evidence-based after-school literacy support;

• Parental engagement;

• Resources for students with disabilities and English-language learners;

• Additional funding to increase the K-3 base rate for local-control funding; and

• STEM-literacy integration with reading as a foundation.

As state policymakers move forward in the ESSA era, strategic investments in reading during the K-4 years will pay big dividends for generations to come.

Michael Lombardo
Chief Executive Officer
Reading Partners
Oakland, Calif.
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