Senate bill requires teachers to take reading science course

Joyce Ranking | State Board of Education

Advances in reading instruction are rapidly changing the way teachers educate our students. Senate Bill 19-199 states that all K-3 reading teachers must complete a Science of Reading (SoR) course by August 1.

Training followed by evidence-based reading instruction focuses on developing basic sequential reading skills of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, including oral skills, and reading comprehension. Skills are delivered in a systematic and sequential approach that ensures each student reaches their own unique potential.

Since January, I’ve been sending kind reminders to all 51 school districts in the 3rd Congressional District. I was concerned that some districts may not meet the August 1 completion date and therefore may not be eligible for additional student funding. The funding enables teachers to implement the evidence-based curriculum ensuring more competent readers.

Some superintendents and leaders in our school districts have understood the need to improve reading skills. Teachers are aware of the poor reading skills of our third grade students and know that the problem increases as students progress through the grades.

When 100% of lawmakers passed Senate Bill 19-199 and required teachers to take SoR training, they unanimously agreed that reading is the #1 skill that can help students succeed in life. Teachers were given two years to complete the required training free of charge through the Colorado Department of Education. The next and most important step is to implement what they have learned in class. Some teachers have already put their skills to work and others should join them at the start of the next school year. As teachers apply the skills learned in SoR, reading scores will improve. Of course, the real winners will be the students.

A success story in the 3rd congressional district (CD) is in Aspen. Lori Anderson, Aspen School District Early Literacy Coordinator, is a trained LETRS coach. LETRS stands for Learning Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling and is the gold standard for in-depth professional development in teaching reading. Fourteen of its teachers have already completed LETRS training, requiring more than 80 hours of work, double the requirement specified in SB19-199. Anderson believes in the science of reading and evidence-based results that follow rigorous implementation.

Another exciting story comes from Dr. Brian Hill, Superintendent of Mesa County Valley SD 51. This is the largest school district in 3rd CD, with 399 teachers required to take SoR training. Hill reported in April that 236 teachers had already taken the training. With so many teachers, I thought it might be difficult for his district to meet the August 1 goal of 100 percent. Last week, he informed me that 398 teachers had completed the training and one remained who was on track for completion by the August 1 deadline.

I’m so proud of the reading leadership in the 3rd CD. Other superintendents stating that their teachers are 100% trained include Keith Crispell, Creede, Ty Gray, Dolores County RE 2, Reece Blincoe, Dolores RE-4, Brad Ray, Garfield 16, Rebecca Hall, Hinsdale County RE-1 , Michael Moore, Huerfano Re-1, Bree Jones, La Veta Re-2, Tod Lokey, Ouray R-1, Emma Martinez, South Conejos, Ed Smith, Pueblo 70 and Kevin Edgar, Sanford J-6.

Kudos to all the superintendents and teachers who are working diligently to ensure reading improvement in their schools and classrooms.

Norman D. Briggs