Science of Reading Legislation Moves Forward

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Jay Diskey

Jay Diskey, Diskey Public Affairs

New Initiatives in Major States

A record number of proposals supporting the Science of Reading (SoR) moved forward in state legislatures this year with major initiatives passing in Ohio, Georgia, Oregon, and Wisconsin. The new measures bring to more than 40 the number of states that have “SoR” programs.

As noted in one of our blog posts from earlier this year, the large number of SoR bills at the state level this year demonstrates the increasing interest in Science of Reading, which broadly refers to a research-based understanding of how the brain learns to read and processes written language.

Much of the legislation introduced this year seeks to establish screening and diagnostic programs in the states to support early literacy. Many of the bills also include provisions for instructional materials, training, and professional development for classroom teachers.

Here is a recap of SoR bills that have been enacted this year:

  • Ohio: Lawmakers approved an expansive K-5 SoR initiative that includes $64 million for curricula, $43 million annually over the next two years for teacher training, and $12 million to support 100 literacy coaches.
  • Georgia: Legislators approved the Georgia Early Literacy Act, which requires local boards of education to approve high-quality instructional materials for K-3 students and multiple screenings each year.
  • Wisconsin: Tony Evers recently signed into law a major SoR program that requires frequent screening, coaching, and new curriculum.
  • New Mexico: This spring the New Mexico legislature passed an SoR bill that creates a new $21.5 million “reading materials fund” to support K-8 literacy instruction and science of reading programs.
  • Oregon: The state enacted SoR legislation that establishes three programs: the PreK-3 Early Literacy Success Initiative, the Early Literacy Success Community Grant Program, and a birth through age 5 literacy plan. Components of these programs include new research-aligned curriculum, professional development, planning, and grants to school districts.
  • Illinois: The state passed legislation directing the state board of education to adopt a rubric by which districts may evaluate curricula and select and implement evidence-based literacy programs.
  • California: The state’s fiscal year 2024 education budget includes $1 million to develop a state “literacy roadmap” to provide guidance on teaching, training, and using evidence-based practices for reading instruction.

In addition, New Hampshire, Indiana, Michigan, and several other states revised existing SoR laws.

While the 2023 legislative sessions have ended in most states, several states including Massachusetts,  New Jersey, and New York remain in session and have pending SoR legislation.

Westchester Education Services is continuing to track Science of Reading legislation for its clients and the broader education community. Listen to our podcast, “What is the Science of Reading?” featuring Jennifer Cole, Content Director for Literacy, Humanities, and Languages. Subscribe to our blog using the form on this page to receive future updates about Science of Reading and other important initiatives shaping K-12 education.

Jay A. Diskey is a policy consultant to Westchester Education Services. He is the principal of Diskey Public Affairs, a Washington DC consultancy specializing in education policy, curriculum reform, publishing, and technology. He is the former chair of the International Publishers Association’s education committee and for many years he led the Association of American Publishers’ education division. Earlier, he was a member of the senior staff of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce. In the early 1990s, he served as a special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Register for our next webinar on August 30, 2023, “K-12 Education Legislation and Funding Update,” featuring Jay Diskey. Earlier this year, Jay hosted a webinar with Westchester Education on 2023 Federal and State Education Funding. 

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