- Cama-i, quyana tailuci!
- (Central Yup’ik)
- "Greetings, thank you for coming!"
What is the Alaska Reads Act?
Introduced by Governor Mike Dunleavy and Senator Tom Begich, the Alaska Reads Act is a bill that would create a statewide comprehensive K-3 reading policy designed to improve reading outcomes. The policy expands high-quality pre-k opportunities for four and five year olds, provides direct support and intervention services for low-performing schools, ensures early identification of struggling readers, and requires reading intervention services for K-3 students who need more help to become successful readers.
What is a Comprehensive K-3 Reading Policy?
The bill’s proposed reading policy includes early education program grants, early screening, parent involvement, teacher training, direct support for low-performing schools, and intensive reading intervention. Fundamental principles include:
- Statewide teacher training on reading instruction and job-embedded training through department-employed reading specialists to ensure all teachers have the knowledge and skill to teach reading to all students, including students with severe reading difficulties such as dyslexia.
- Focusing existing state and/or federal funds to support policy implementation, including new funding through grants.
- Early literacy screening tool administered three times each school year in grades K-3 to identify students with potential reading difficulties.
- Timely parent notification for any student identified with a reading difficulty in grades K-3.
- Individual reading plans developed with the parent, recommending evidence-based reading interventions aimed at removing the reading deficit.
- Student progress is monitored more frequently for students identified as having reading difficulties.
- Home reading strategies and/or programs are provided to parents to support their child at home.
- Interventions during the school day and before/after school.
- Appropriate grade-level progression for students severely below grade level who are unable to demonstrate sufficient reading skills for progression to fourth grade. More intensive interventions with a highly effective teacher are provided.
- Multiple pathways are provided to third grade students to demonstrate reading skills required for progression to fourth grade, so one test on one day is not the determining factor.
- Good cause exemptions for appropriate grade-level progression are provided that recognize the special needs of some students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who have previously experienced delayed grade-level progression.
Why is it important?
A person’s ability to read is a critical predictor of educational and lifelong success. A strong reading program, beginning in kindergarten and continuing into the third grade and beyond, gives students the best possible chance to maximize their education. Before third grade, students are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade and beyond, a student must be prepared to read to learn across all subject areas.
How did we get here?
Alaska experiences a large achievement gap in reading proficiency. Alaska has scored below the national average in grade four reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for every year the test was administered since 2003. Results from 2017 and 2019 rank Alaska as the lowest performing state in grade four reading, with only 25 percent of students performing at or above the proficient level in 2019.
Commissioner Michael Johnson and the Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development (State Board), established five strategic priorities designed to better ensure an excellent public education for all of Alaska’s students. DEED released a public survey asking Alaskans to share their priorities for public education reform. Nearly 1,400 Alaskans in 109 communities submitted over 18,000 ideas for topics to be considered to improve educational outcomes in the State. In April 2017, Commissioner Johnson and the State Board formally launched Alaska’s Education Challenge. DEED gathered nearly 100 Alaskans from all corners of the State, representing diverse backgrounds, interests and experiences, convened to work collaboratively in developing recommendations for priorities.
The first priority of Alaska’s Education Challenge is to support ALL students to read at grade level by the end of third grade. The Alaska Reads Act translates that priority into policy.
What happens next?
What are people saying?
“The Governor and I have been working together to craft legislation that will provide our youngest Alaskans with an opportunity to succeed. We are still working on some provisions of the bill, but I believe that together we can develop a comprehensive early learning and reading policy that supports kids, and moves Alaska forward. Strong, quality, voluntary, universal pre-K with support through effective reading instruction in later grades is critical for Alaska’s youth. Some things are more important than our political differences, and the ability to educate our children is one of those things.” – Senator Tom Begich
“There are a lot of issues that divide the members of the Alaska Legislature, but the one issue that brings everyone together is the education of our children.The research is clear that student achievement is directly linked to reading ability, especially in the first four years of school. The Alaska Reads Act is a good bill that will help students, which is why it has bipartisan support, including from me. I want to thank Senator Begich and Governor Dunleavy for their work on this important legislation, which the Alaska Children’s Caucus will thoroughly review.” – Representative Chris Tuck
“Childhood literacy is not a partisan issue. It's critical to the strength of our economy, the health of our communities and the endurance of our democracy. I believe this effort – spearheaded by Senator Begich and Governor Dunleavy – will make tremendous strides toward achieving universal literacy, a goal we all share as Alaskans.” – Senator Cathy Giessel
“The Alaska Reads Act being introduced by Governor Dunleavy is incredibly significant policy that will impact the future of our state, most importantly the lives of Alaskans, but also the future of our economy, our state budget, and the vibrancy of our communities. I really don’t think I’m overstating this impact. Education is meant to be the great equalizer. It is only, however, if a child masters the objectives at each grade level and becomes a competent reader.” – Senator Shelley Hughes
Alaska Reads Act in the News
- Feb 13 - Alaska Reads Act Contains Provisions to Deliver Universal Pre-K Across Alaska
- Feb 04 - Capitol Live: Senate Leadership at Southeast Conference
- Feb 04 - Alaska Reads Act Gets a Closer Look
- Jan 23 - Capitol Live: Alaska Reads Act gets its first hearing
- Jan 23 - Senate panel gets its look at Alaska Reads Act
- Jan 16 - Governor Dunleavy Unveils Alaska Reads Act
- Jan 15 - Dunleavy, Begich Collaborate on Reading Proficiency Plan
- Jan 15 - Dunleavy Rolls Out Bill to Improve Elementary Reading Levels
- Jan 15 - Governor’s New Bill Could Mean Help for Juneau Preschools
- Jan 15 - Dunleavy and Top Legislators Announce Bipartisan Plan to Improve Alaska Kids Reading Scores
- Jan 15 – Alaska Reads Act: Comprehensive Statewide K-3 Reading Program Unveiled
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