Senate bill requires teachers complete Science of Reading course

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Joyce Ranking | State Board of Education

Advancement in reading instruction is rapidly changing the way teachers are educating our students. Senate Bill 19-199 states that all teachers of reading in grades kindergarten through the third grade must complete a course in the Science of Reading (SoR) by Aug. 1. 

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

Since January, I’ve been sending gentle reminders to the 51 school districts in the 3rd Congressional District. I was concerned that some districts would not meet the Aug. 1 completion date and therefore not be eligible for additional student funding. The funding allows teachers to implement the evidence-based program ensuring more proficient readers.

Some superintendents and leaders within our school districts have embraced the need to improve reading proficiency. Teachers are aware of the low reading skills of our third-graders and know that the problem increases as students progress through the grades. 

When 100 percent of the legislators passed Senate Bill 19-199 and required teachers to complete training in SoR, they unanimously agreed that reading is the No. 1 skill that can help students succeed in life. Teachers have been given two years to complete the required training free of cost through the Colorado Department of Education. The next and most important step is to implement what they have learned in the classroom. Some teachers have already put their skills to work and more should join them as the next school year begins. As teachers apply the skills learned in the SoR, reading scores will improve. Of course, the real winners will be the students.

One success story in the 3rd Congressional District (CD) is in Aspen. Lori Anderson, the Aspen School District’s early literacy coordinator, is a LETRS-trained coach. LETRS stands for Learning Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling and is the gold standard for in-depth professional development in reading instruction. Fourteen of her teachers have already completed the LETRS training, requiring 80-plus hours of work, double the requirement specified in SB19-199. Anderson believes in the Science of Reading and the evidence-based results that follow rigorous implementation. 

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

I’m so proud of the reading leadership in the 3rd CD. Other superintendents reporting that their teachers are 100 percent 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.

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