Science of Reading Legislation Surges at State Level

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Jay Diskey

By Jay Diskey, Diskey Public Affairs

Among the many types of education bills moving forward in statehouses this spring are a record number of proposals supporting the science of reading. To date, more than 80 science of reading bills have been introduced, which is more than twice the number of “SoR” measures introduced at the state level in 2022.

The number of bills this year shows the continuing and increasing interest in the science of reading, which broadly refers to a research-based understanding of how the brain learns to read and processes written language. The research has identified five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. However, some researchers and advocates disagree on the emphasis placed on some components.

Much of the legislation introduced this year seeks to establish screening and diagnostic programs in the states to support early literacy and address dyslexia. Some of the initiatives are aimed at K-3 students while others extend to grades 4 and 5. Many of the bills also include training and professional development for classroom teachers. For example:

  • Ohio Mike DeWine has proposed 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.
  • In California, Gavin Newsom recently proposed that school districts base literacy instruction on the science of reading. In budget language, Newsom called for literacy experts to create a “literacy road map” that would emphasize SoR.
  • In Georgia, legislators approved the Georgia Early Literacy Act, which would require local boards of education to approve high-quality instructional materials for K-3 students and multiple screenings each year. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on April 13.

Many other science of reading bills are under consideration in statehouses across the country this spring. Westchester Education Services is tracking this legislation for its clients and the broader education community. Please watch our blog for further updates.

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.

Earlier this year, Jay hosted a webinar with Westchester Education on 2023 Federal and State Education Funding. You can view it here.

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