The 2022 Kentucky General Assembly can take action to give Kentucky’s youngest learners the strong start they need to grow into exemplary readers and high achievers. Early literacy is the key to ensure more young Kentuckians excel in the primary classroom. Students must learn to read from kindergarten through third grade so that they may read to learn in school and throughout the course of their lives.

And yet, per the 2020 – 2021 KPREP assessment only 29.8% of third graders in the Commonwealth are reading proficiently by third grade. Even pre-pandemic assessment data showed that, from 2015-2019, an average of over 46% of Kentucky students were not proficient in reading by third grade. By the end of 3rd grade, research shows that 16% of students not reading proficiently do not graduate high school on time. That rate rises to 26% for non-minority students who live in poverty, to 25% for African American and Hispanic students, and to 30%+ for African American and Hispanic students in poverty. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the 2020-2021 school year exacerbated great challenges in literacy education. Learning loss caused throughout the pandemic will likely continue to worsen reading proficiency rates for young children as the effects of Covid-19 continue to plague Kentucky’s communities.

That is why the time is now to invest in improved literacy education outcomes for Kentucky’s students in kindergarten through third grade.

The Read to Succeed Act, Kentucky Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Senators West, Wilson, and Mills, provides kids, their parents, and their teachers a system of supports to engage all students in learning to read at a proficient level by the close of third grade, ensures quality instruction by highly trained teachers, and includes parents to ensure that they are provided with the information they need to nurture young readers both at home and at school.

Provisions of Senate Bill 9 include:

  • High-quality instructional resources to support critical literacy education needs.  Senate Bill 9 equips educators with knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to facilitate evidenced-based reading, intervention, and instructional strategies designed to increase student understanding of phonics, reading comprehension, writing, fluency, and vocabulary.
  • Partnerships that strengthen student success initiatives focused on reading.  Senate Bill 9 unites parents, educators, and key partners in literacy and early education in the development of high-quality, evidenced based year-round programming for early literacy. Decision-making for provisions such as common reading assessments and implementation of teacher professional development rests with local boards of education to determine what works best in their local communities. Parents and educators are united in using their knowledge of young learners to tackle literacy together. And literacy experts are engaged in ensuring early literacy best practices are implemented to optimize improved educational outcomes for students. The knowledge, skills, and dispositions of all stakeholders are united in growing a love of reading in Kentucky kids.
  • Provides young students with opportunities for reading enrichment and/or improvement.  Senate Bill 9 provides funding and urgency for reading enrichment and/or improvement for students in the areas of phonics, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and other evidenced-based strategies to raise reading and writing student competencies. A common assessment is used to determine which students may be strong or struggling in reading skills. The knowledge of parents, educators, and literacy specialists are utilized to grow the reading abilities of students. Struggling students are granted a reading improvement plan that unites the skills of teachers, literacy specialists and parents to improve literacy skills. Reading enrichment opportunities are also provided to accelerated readers supported by parents, teachers, and literacy specialists.
  • Creates teacher induction programming that includes multiyear residency and mentorship for early childhood and elementary educators.  Beginning in 2023, all postsecondary institutions offering teacher preparation programs are required to include evidenced-based approaches to the teaching of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension for teacher candidates. By 2024, all early childhood education and early regular education teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery of literacy education knowledge, skills, and abilities prior to entering the classroom.
  • Initiates a statewide professional development program for early literacy instruction for all elementary school teachers & school leaders.  Senate Bill 9 prioritizes and strengthens the continued professional development of high-quality early educators trained in evidenced-based early literacy teaching.

Senate Bill 9 strengthens the quality of instruction in reading for students in kindergarten through third grade giving young learners the solid educational foundation needed to succeed in school and in life. A big bold future for Kentucky begins in the early grades. Kentucky must ensure that students are given the tools they need to succeed in their earliest years by leveraging best practices in literacy education, investing in high quality teachers, and ensuring strong parent engagement in the education of their children.  For these reasons, The Prichard Committee is pleased to support Kentucky Senate Bill 9 – and we hope you will too!

Author

Director of Early Childhood Policy & Practice

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