By Joyce Rankin
State Board of Education
On Jan. 8 at 10 a.m., the Colorado Legislature convened the 72nd General Assembly. The Colorado Constitution states that the regular session must begin no later than the second Wednesday in January and must adjourn within 120 calendar days. There are also special sessions that are called to extend the regular session, but that is very rare.
While the Legislature commenced under the dome, I was across the street attending a State Board of Education meeting. This year, the board will write rules to accompany the education bills passed in the last session. Senate Bill 199 (SB19-199) or The Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act was of great interest, not only because all 100 legislators voted to pass it, but because of my background as a teacher. That bill also addressed the fact that only 40 percent of our fourth-graders are reading at grade level. Since passage of the bill, I’ve been traveling around the district sharing how the READ act can help students become better readers and what the bill means to parents, teachers and the community.
One of the ways parents/teachers/community members can learn about newer, more reliable, evidence-based methods to teach children how to read is to take a class. However, who has the time?
I felt the same way until I found a free online MOOC. MOOC is an acronym for massive open online course. MOOCs are free and a person only needs an email address to sign up. I wanted to take the course to understand what teachers needed to learn under the READ Act and I wanted to receive a certificate for taking the class. The Friday Institute out of North Carolina State College of Education offers a MOOC called Teaching Foundational Reading Skills. The course clearly explains what the evidence-based reading program is all about and how adults using the program can successfully raise the reading ability of students from kindergarten through the third grade.
This was the message that I took to schools and libraries throughout the third congressional district. When students are taught to read, according to the requirements of the READ Act, they will have the most critical component and increased opportunity for success.
When I visited Pueblo, community members in attendance included the superintendent, school board members, teachers and community members. Dr. Margaret Wright, a member of the Pueblo 60 school board, attended that session. I recently spoke with Wright. Having been a reading teacher in two Title I schools, she understands the importance of proper reading instruction, not only K-3, but as a part of the whole K-12 learning experience. She shared an “aha” moment that came about as a result of taking the MOOC course and realizing that this resource is available free and can be accessed from anywhere by computer. She has become even more passionate about the importance of evidence-based reading instruction to ensure student success.
As the legislative session progresses, I’ll be continuing to meet with communities sharing some of the ways they can support what students should be learning in the classroom.