Louisiana Department of Education to convene group to study early literacy

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Today, the Louisiana Department of Education will convene for the first time the Louisiana Early Literacy Commission, a group of state leaders, educators and parents tasked with studying and recommending ways Louisiana can develop and implement an aligned system to provide effective, evidence-based reading instruction for children from birth through third grade.

The Early Literacy Commission, which was established by the Louisiana Legislature during the 2019 regular session, will hold its inaugural meeting at 12 p.m. in the Thomas Jefferson Room of the Claiborne Building in downtown Baton Rouge. It will also be broadcast live.

The Commission will continue to meet each month to:

--Gather and analyze data to determine the degree to which evidence-based reading is being implemented with fidelity in the state's public schools and early childhood care and education settings;

--Conduct an assessment of the number of practicing educators, including K-3 teachers, special education teachers, and reading specialists, with training and skills in evidence-based reading instruction; and

--Assess the degree to which state colleges of education and alternative certification programs provide a program of study on evidence-based reading practices for K-3 teachers, special education teachers, and education specialists.

In January 2020, the Early Literacy Commission will make its final recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature regarding:

--How the state might ensure all teacher preparation programs produce teacher candidates with the competencies needed to teach evidence-based instruction from day one;

--How to assist school systems to adopt reading programs that utilize systematic and cumulative evidence-based reading instruction; and

--How the state can equip educators with the evidence-based competencies and skills needed to ensure the reading proficiency of third grade students.

The Early Literacy Commission will also develop and propose a timeframe for increasing the reading proficiency of third grade students and establish benchmarks for the intervening years.

"I encourage the public to follow the Commission and its findings," said State Superintendent John White. "Teaching the foundations of reading ranks among the most essential of our missions. Let us not waste a chance to review our work to date and to make improvements for the future."

The Legislature urged the Department to convene the Commission in response to research showing:

--Students who do not read proficiently by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, and those who have not mastered at least a basic level of reading proficiency are nearly six times as likely to leave school without earning a diploma.

--Students who are not proficient in reading as third graders make up nearly two-thirds of the students who fail to graduate on time from high school.

--Early reading skills have a positive impact on college attendance, and ninth graders who read on grade-level as third graders are three times more likely to go to college than those who did not.

--85 percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, as are 60 percent of all prison inmates.

--Louisiana spends more than $270,000 annually to remediate students who read below grade-level.

"For these reasons and more, Louisiana must take more proactive steps toward preparing our children to be literate and numerate citizens," said Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), former chair of the House education committee who co-sponsored the resolution. "We must lay a strong foundation early and continue to build children's skills and knowledge over time, using approaches that are proven effective."

Contributed by the Louisiana Department of Education