This bill intends to dramatically improve student achievement by ensuring that all students will be able to read by the end of the 3rd Grade or else they will be retained.
A trio of Clark County School District educators invoked the lingo of early-childhood literacy circa 2016 as a visitor listened to the evolution of Nevada’s new “Read by Grade Three” initiative. They outlined the ongoing effort to hire learning strategists, conduct student reading assessments, provide intensive instruction and much-needed curriculum support for educators. It’s all a part of Senate Bill 391 adopted by the 2015 Nevada Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sandoval.
CCSD designated 21 “Read by Grade Three” schools for the current academic year, with the district receiving $2.2 million to provide for learning strategists, student assessment, intensive instruction, parental involvement, professional development for educators and curriculum support. The Washoe County School District, the state’s second largest, received $1 million for 10 schools to begin its implementation of the program. Legislators allocated $22.3 million for the next phase of the program. That money has yet to be awarded by the State Department of Education. “For students to have any success in any subject they have to be able to comprehend the subject matter,” said Greg Bortolin, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Education. “The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Governor, they all strongly believe this is the foundation to success for any learning path that any student is on. “This was a major portion of the Governor’s education platform. Really it goes back to his Pre-K programs, too. There are a lot of children in our state who need a hand-up even before they get to kindergarten. That’s all a part of Read by Three.”
The goals of Nevada’s Read By Grade Three initiative include calls to:
*** Increase Third Grade proficiency rates in reading.
*** Reduce the overall achievement gap among elementary and middle school students when measured by the highest-performing sub-group and ethnic/racial groups.
*** Increase the percent of parents reporting that they have been informed about their children’s progress and feel welcome at school.
“We want to have sustainable data. Traditionally, (we) have data for Third Grade and above,” said Danielle Miller, a Deputy Superintendent for the nation’s fifth-largest school district. The recently adopted legislation requires that Nevada’s students must be reading at grade-level-or-above by the time they enter the Third Grade in 2019. Nevada’s school districts are working with the State Board of Education to assess the academic strengths and weaknesses of their very youngest students. The goal is to acquire accurate data for all of the newcomers to the K-12 system. The state has received an additional $43 million in federal education funding and $23 million from state lawmakers for a Pre-K reading program that is designed to serve about 3,000 Nevadans in 27 public, private and charter schools by 2020. “It’s pretty shocking not just in Nevada but throughout the country how many children fall behind,” Bortolin added, “and when you fall behind it’s pretty hard to get caught up. To understand other subjects, no matter what the subject, you’ve got to understand how to read.” Traditionally, U.S. school districts do not have comprehensive reading data for students until they are in the Third Grade, but a slew of studies have reinforced the concept that the first five years of a child’s life are often the most important for the acquisition of language skills. Countless news stories and academic reports have been published in recent years showing a significant word gap between the top- and lowest-performing students when a child enters kindergarten. “As we look across the generations, Kindergarten used to be a very social time,” Miller said. “Kindergarten has become much more academic.” The Nevada Department of Education is in charge of setting up these regulations. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, the Board approved 13 different literacy assessments for use in the 2015- 2016 school year.
There will be a Request for Proposal for ideally one assessment (a small number may be accepted) that should begin in the 2016-17 school year. They also defined the tasks of a learning strategist but they did not clarify the difference between a coach and a learning strategist. There will be a working group starting this work in the coming weeks run by the Department of Education. Rationale: This bill intends to dramatically improve student achievement by ensuring that all students will be able to read by the end of the 3rd Grade or else they will be retained. By investing additional resources in learning strategists, early intervention strategies, and targeted reading programs, and creating universal full-day Kindergarten, the systems should be in place in every school to ensure that every student will be able to reach this goal. We know if students are reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, they are far more likely to graduate from high school.
Therefore, this program, if implemented correctly, should benefit long-term student achievement in the state. When looking at the Read-by-3 bill, many focus first on the mandated retention of all students who do not meet 3rd grade reading proficiency starting in 2019. Although this is believed to be a key component in maintaining accountability for the program, proponents of the bill believe that heightened interventions by highly effective teachers, new assessment for students in K-2, and a competitive grants program to assist schools in pay for literacy programs, will be the difference in changing the trajectory for Nevada’s young students. By providing schools with means to assess their K-2 populations, teachers and administrators will have more information to know whether or not their tactics are working, and how to continually improve their work to result in the best outcomes for students.
Work Completed: Creation of a Request for Application for Phase I Grant Awards, July-Aug. 2015. Technical assistance provided to all districts and, or charter schools in navigating the RFA process; the hiring of a Read by Grade Education Program Professional, Oct. 1, 2015 (Kevin Marie Laxalt); Supervisor named for Read by Grade Three Program Supervisor, Karl Wilson; formal protocols established and conducted for formal grant review process, Sept. - Oc. 2015; Individual feedback provided to all Read by Grade Three grant applicants, Oct.-Nov. 2015; Notification of formal Phase I awards, Oct.-Nov. 2015. Next steps: create Request for Qualifications document for reading assessment vendors; assist NDE leadership and State Board of Education in establishment of regulations; design and present initial technical assistance training for all awarded applicants; establish protocols for literacy plans by December 2015 through groups that chose not to apply for grants. Design formal NDE action plan for monitoring of Phase I implementation. Create formal timeline/begin writing RFA for Phase II applications for mid-spring rollout.
Complete final draft of formal Guidance Document for SB 391. - Update via www.NevadaSucceeds.org