By Matt Weyer
With several legislative sessions underway across the country, it may be a helpful time to reflect on the numerous bills passed in 2015 regarding kindergarten through third grade education as this field is also experiencing an increase in attention and funding.
Literacy issues received substantial attention in legislatures. Legislators likely are familiar with research that demonstrates that students who are not proficient readers by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers. Enacted legislation includes third grade retention bills, pediatric literacy programming, early literacy screening and data and governance restructuring.
Recent educational research has established that early mathematics proficiency is an even stronger predictor of future academic success than early literacy skills. Enacted legislation in this area focused on improving the mathematical content knowledge and instructional skills of early educators through certification and specialized roles. Other bills included early mathematics proficiency screening assessments and increasing access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum for young learners.
With the population of English-Language Learners (ELLs) growing around the country—and recognizing their generally low academic performance—legislators took action to help improve ELLs’ academic outcomes. Enacted legislation includes professional development aimed to meet the unique needs of ELLs, native language testing and assessment exemptions, dual language immersion pilot programs and enhancing communication with parents of ELLs by translating school-related communications to match the many languages spoken at home.
The benefits of effective family engagement cannot be overstated; it is linked to school readiness, social-emotional growth, positive attitudes towards school and academic success. In 2015, legislators acknowledged these important outcomes by enacting legislation in several areas: conducting community needs assessments, funding and governance plans for community schools, electronic communication methods for parents to stay connected to their children’s school and strategies to promote workforce development among parents while simultaneously providing quality early education to their children.
For more information, check out the Early Learning and Support Webpage for links to policy briefs, legislative tracking, research, resources and news articles relating to early education policies.
Matt Weyer is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program. Contact Matt.