“Every child in this state needs to be able to read and write, and we will work together to give them the tools to do that.”
Mr. Healy's announcement follows a four-part investigation by the Globe's Great Divide Education team, which found that inadequate teacher training, sloppy curriculum, and limited state intervention are contributing to the spread of the virus across the state. It has been found that children's reading comprehension is negatively affected.
Despite Massachusetts' reputation for academic excellence, scores on fourth-grade reading tests across the country were trending downward even before the pandemic disrupted student learning, and last year's MCAS exam showed a decline in English language arts scores. Less than half of the third-year students responded. Data released late last year showed that about 30% of K-12 students were at high risk for reading proficiency.
In his speech, Healy said these data “reflect social inequalities.”
“This also reflects the fact that many school districts are using outdated and unfounded methods of teaching reading,” she says. “Kids are paying the price. Even if they are able to catch up, some are struggling for years. So we're changing it.”
As the Globe reported, Massachusetts invests just $5.3 million a year in state funds in early literacy efforts, with $20 million starting in 2020 to support reading improvement programs. It relies primarily on federal funding, including investments. Massachusetts' funding commitment, with an expected investment of $150 million, would put it on par with states such as North Carolina, while New York State's recent commitment of $10 million would put the state in line with smaller investments. It will be surpassed.
But Healy did not commit to future amounts, and it could take much more to actually make a difference than the $30 million by 2025 she originally proposed. expensive. She spent about $2 million on her latest literacy project in Reading Public Schools alone, officials said. , and the little Mohawk spent about $500,000.
Still, literacy advocates were excited by Healy's proposal. Keri Rodriguez, founder of Massachusetts Parents United, an advocacy group that has been pushing for literacy reform, called the announcement “a relief.”
“Frankly, this is the kind of leadership we really need to see in Massachusetts on this issue,” she said. “We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand.”
This isn't the first time Massachusetts has tried to address struggles among young readers. The state Legislature passed a law targeting third-grade reading comprehension in 2012, but it had little success. The law had no funding or curriculum requirements.
The state is putting a new focus on early readers in response to increased attention to the Science of Reading, a collection of research on how the brain learns to read. This research shows that most children need explicit instruction in phonics and vocabulary to become proficient readers. But too often, students in Massachusetts are missing out on that instruction, a Globe study found.
“We have some of the largest achievement gaps in the country,” said Michael Moriarty, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a literacy advocate. “The Healey Government’s ambition to make one of the largest investments in the country will certainly help and could transform the futures of thousands of children for years to come.”
The administration plans to pay for the new investments with revenue from the so-called millionaire tax passed by voters in 2022. If the annual net income exceeds $1 million, an additional 4% surtax will be levied. The state has already earmarked some of the new revenue, estimated to total $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2024, to fund other education initiatives such as free school meals.
Clinton Elementary Principal Meghan Silvio said state support for literacy can be “life-changing.” Her school used state funding to implement a new basic reading skills curriculum, including teacher training and coaching. Teachers feel “really supported”. . . It's about having someone make them feel safe,” Silvio said.
Healey also called for universal preschool in Massachusetts, proposing $38.7 million. Guarantee low-cost or free preschool for all 4-year-olds in all 26 gateway cities by 2026, which will help close the reading gap between low-income and affluent children. there is a possibility.
A state spokesperson said Mr Healy's proposed five-year early literacy plan, called Literacy Launch, would be implemented by the Department of Education and would target children “ages 3 to 3rd grade.” . In the first year of implementation, funding will be split between three policy priorities: bringing high-quality curriculum to more schools. Train more teachers in science-backed reading instruction. And state teacher-preparation programs are changing so quickly that they are barely able to train new educators to effectively teach children to read and write.
What the plan doesn't solve is the central problem that critics accuse of hampering the state's ability to improve reading instruction: local control.
Because curriculum decisions are left to local governments in Massachusetts, the state Department of Education has relied on guidance and incentives rather than mandates to encourage the use of high-quality materials. But these efforts have not swayed many school districts, which are stuck with curricula with flawed instructional practices, such as teaching students to guess unfamiliar words rather than listen to them. Under the new plan, the state is effectively expanding the scope of its incentives.
One proposed solution is legislation. Researchers at Michigan State University found last year that states also improved student performance when they passed reading reform laws. Bills currently in the House and Senate would require school districts to use a state-approved reading curriculum.
But the bills face fierce opposition from critics, including the state's largest teachers union. Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, previously said the bill was a “flawed, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex challenge.”
Mandy McLaren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org her @mandy_mclaren. Naomi Martin can be reached at email@example.com.