A rift has opened between educators and superintendents over the implementation of K-3 reading curriculum models outlined in the “Right to Read” legislation.
The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) issued a strongly worded letter to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) over a Sept. 29 memorandum requiring every state school district to “purchase and implement CSDE ‘approved K-3 core comprehensive reading curricula/programs.’” The memorandum has “sorely tested” CAPSS’s relationship with CSDE, urging the state board to rescind the decision on forcing districts to “purchase ‘off the shelf’ instructional materials” that could burden municipalities with an extra $100 million cost.
Meanwhile, the CSDE argues it’s within legislative bounds and the requirements are a necessity considering declining reading proficiencies pre- and post-pandemic, especially among black and Hispanic students. According to CSDE, more than 19,000 third graders are “not proficient” in English & Language Arts, up from the 17,000 prior to the pandemic. Among those “not proficient” students, more than 3,000 are black, nearly 8,000 are Hispanic/Latino, and more than 6,000 are white.
Passed in June 2021, the “Right to Read” created the Center for Literacy Research and Learning Success overseeing the implementation of the six curricula/programs written by various national publishers (see below); but the legislation’s purpose was to also offset a history of “deliberately denying segments of society an equal opportunity to read and learn,” according to advocates, as well as reduce the reading proficiency gap between white and black students.
This legislation was passed prior to the troubling math and reading scores published by the Nation’s Report Card in October.
“We cannot afford to have students in our state who are not reading proficiently by third grade,” Charlene M. Russell-Tucker, commissioner of education stated in a Nov. 28 letter to CAPSS. “That was the reason that the ‘Right to Read” legislation charged the CSDE with the obligation to approve only those reading curriculum models or programs that are grounded solidly in the latest scientific evidence.”
She added, “Our students deserve to have the CSDE, superintendents, and educators work together to implement this legislation to the greatest and most efficacious extent possible.”
The Center also endorses the ‘Science of Reading,’ which consists of utilizing research and data to improve phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, reading fluency including oral skills, and reading comprehension. CAPSS agrees with implementing “evidenced-based and scientifically-based classroom instruction,” but has issues with a “fundamentally flawed” waiver process, that rests solely on whether the commissioner determines districts are using data to successfully increase reading proficiency. According to the CSDE website, the data collected must be “disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, eligibility for free or reduced priced lunches” among other factors. A waiver application must be submitted by Feb. 28, 2023.
If districts are not granted waivers, the CSDE approved curriculum must be implemented for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Clearly, the divebombing reading proficiency is more than worrisome. It must be addressed so our public schools don’t set our students up for failure. But lawmakers should allow superintendents and local boards of education — those closest to the students — to address the issues. The Center should be a resource for districts in need of assistance. Imposing curriculums on all districts — including those who are successful — will only create a wider divide between CAPSS and the CSDE.
One must ask: is a rift like that good for students who need the most help?
The six approved curriculums:
- American Reading Company – ARC Core (K-3) (2020)
- Amplify Education Inc. – Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA, 2017)
- Imagine Learning- EL Education Grades K-3 (2017)
- McGraw Hill Education – Wonders (2020)
- Open Up Resources – EL Education (2017)
- Savvas Learning Company – myView Literacy (2020)