2015 Kindergarten through Third Grade Education Legislation

1/5/2016

teacher reading to young studentsOnly 36 percent of fourth graders are reading proficiently and only 40 percent are proficient in mathematics, according to the 2015 Nation's Report Card. Additionally, fourth grade English language learners (ELLs) are trailing significantly behind the already low proficiency levels of their non-ELL peers.

These numbers present a serious challenge to our educational system and are in need of attention. With an increasing focus on the early years of education, primarily birth through age 8, state legislatures enacted legislation in several specific areas in 2015. These areas include literacy, math, dual- and English-language learners and family engagement. Select legislation is presented in each of these areas to highlight the innovative and research-based policies that are being implemented around the country to improve the educational outcomes of our youngest learners.

Literacy

In most cases, kindergarten through third grade students are learning to read. By fourth grade, reading proficiency is critical as students beginning reading to learn. This positions reading proficiency by the end of third grade as an important area to focus. Developing early literacy skills has been linked to enhanced educational achievement in later grades including increased graduation rates and earning potential. In fact, students who were not proficient in reading at the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers. 

K-3 LITERACY LEGISLATION
State Legislation
Arkansas Senate Bill 534 establishes an act to make an appropriation for Pediatric Early Literacy Program grants that partner with doctors to prepare Arkansas' youngest children to succeed in school. 
Connecticut House Bill 6974 creates a director of reading initiatives within the Department of Education. The director is responsible for administering the intensive reading instruction program to improve student literacy in kindergarten to grade three and close the achievement gap and for assisting in developing and administering the program of professional development for teachers and principals in scientifically based reading research and instruction.
Florida House Bill 702 requires that students who are promoted to fourth grade with a good cause exemption shall be provided intensive reading instruction and intervention that include specialized diagnostic information and specific reading strategies to meet the needs of each student so promoted. Requires the school district to help schools and teachers implement reading strategies for students promoted with a good cause exemption that research has shown to be successful in improving reading among students who have reading difficulties.
Mississippi House Bill 1536 creates an appropriation for an Early Childhood Education Initiative Program and Literacy Initiative and Assessment. 
North Carolina House Bill 97 requires district and school leaders to use kindergarten through third grade assessments that yield data that can be used with the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), or a compatible and comparable system approved by the State Board of Education, to analyze student data to identify root causes for difficulty with reading.
Nevada Senate Bill 391 requires the principal of each public elementary school to designate a learning strategist to train and assist teachers in providing intensive instruction to pupils who have been identified as deficient in reading. Requires certain teachers at public schools to complete professional development concerning the subject area of reading; requires certain interventions for pupils enrolled in kindergarten or grade one, two or three who do not achieve adequate proficiency in reading. Prohibits a public school from promoting a pupil to grade four if the pupil does not achieve proficiency in reading.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 831 requires that each student enrolled in kindergarten in a public school be screened for reading skills, including phonological awareness, letter recognition and oral language skills as identified in the subject matter standards adopted by the state board. For those kindergarten children at risk for reading difficulties, teachers shall emphasize reading skills as identified in the subject matter standards adopted by the State Board of Education, monitor progress throughout the year, and measure year-end reading progress.

 

Mathematics

Although there has been a strong emphasis on early literacy skills and access to universal prekindergarten, more and more educators and policymakers have been focusing on early mathematics skills. Research suggests that prekindergarten mathematics knowledge and proficiency predicts achievement at age 15, even after accounting for early literacy skills, cognitive skills, and family and child characteristics. Enacted legislation is presented that focuses on developing K-3 teachers' content knowledge and instructional skills in mathematics, readiness assessments and incorporating mathematics curricula as part of STEM education.

K-3 MATHEMATICS LEGISLATION
State Legislation
Georgia House Bill 76 increases funds for differentiated pay for newly certified math and science teachers and also increases funds for kindergarten through fifth grade mastery math initiatives. 
Iowa House Bill 658 provides appropriations for salaries, staffing, institutional support, and activities directly related to recruitment of kindergarten through grade 12 mathematics and science teachers, and for ongoing mathematics and science programming for students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.
Michigan Senate Bill 134 requires the development and administration of a kindergarten readiness assessment that measures the mathematics skills of entering kindergartners. 
Texas House Bill 1 requires the Texas Education Agency to fund and create highly professional, research-based, four-day Math Achievement Academies for teachers of kindergarten through third grade, utilizing a curriculum focused on how to teach core numeracy skills.
Utah Senate Bill 18 establishes a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Center designed to enhance the academic development of these fields among kindergarten through sixth-grade students by incorporating best practices including institutes of higher education in their development, and providing monitoring and accountability. 

 

English-Language Learners

For more than 20 years, English-language learners (ELLs) have underperformed in reading and mathematics when compared to their native-English speaking peers. During this same time span, the population of ELLs has increased by 20 percent, with this population expected to rise to 40 percent by the year 2050. Several innovative policies were enacted in 2015 to provide this group with a more level playing field to improve their educational achievement. Specifics focus on providing teachers with adequate training and background knowledge to instruct ELLs, native language testing and exemptions, governance changes and funding for bilingual education, among several others.

K-3 ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNER LEGISLATION
State Legislation
California Senate Bill 416 requires providing sufficient textbooks for English language learners and for providing teachers with sufficient training in English language acquisition to ELL students in classes where ELLs comprise 20 percent or more of the total student population.
Colorado House Bill 1323 allows English language learners to take state assessments in a language other than English as long as they have not been in an ELL program for more than three years, at which point they must take the assessment in English.
Illinois Senate Bill 1319 establishes the Department of Transitional Bilingual Education. The department will gather information about the theory and practice of bilingual education in this state and elsewhere; encourage experimentation and innovation in the field of bilingual education; and make recommendations in the areas of pre-service and in-service training for transitional bilingual education teachers, curriculum development, testing and testing mechanisms, and development of materials for transitional bilingual education programs.
Indiana Senate Bill 267 establishes the dual language immersion pilot program to provide grants to school corporations and charter schools that establish dual language immersion programs in certain foreign languages. Creates the state certificate of biliteracy. Requires that the appropriate designation appear on the student's transcript. 
Maryland Senate Bill 622 establishes the English Language Learner Liaison Pilot Program in the State Department of Education and requires the department to collaborate with specific school district employees to address the specific needs of ELLs and their families and identify students who are not English proficient, monitor their progress and conduct professional development for ELL educators.
Minnesota Senate Bill 1218 provides parents of English language learners with oral and written information to monitor program impact on their children's English language development, to know whether their children are progressing in developing their English proficiency and, where practicable, their native language proficiency.
Oregon House Bill 3499 directs the Department of Education to convene an advisory group related to English language learner programs; requires school districts to make an annual report to Department of Education related to English language learner programs; adjusts methods by which state school fund distributions are made to school districts for students enrolled in English language learner programs.

 

Family Engagement

Family engagement promotes school readiness, social-emotional growth, positive attitudes towards school and academic success. This term differs from parental involvement and implies that this responsibility falls on more than just the parents. In an era of evolving family compositions, siblings, relatives and even friends play an important role. Examples of enacted legislation include plans for implementing community schools that provide comprehensive services to children and their families, electronic communication strategies and two-generation approaches that simultaneously target quality early childhood education while providing parents with workforce training and postsecondary completion.

K-3 FAMILY ENGAGEMENT LEGISLATION
Maine House Bill 702 establishes a plan for creating, funding and governaning community schools that will provide comprehensive services to students and their families including programs that promote family engagement and provide medical screening, job training and much more.
Minnesota House Bill 1 provides funding to evaluate communities’ needs for local wraparound services and funding to schools for programs that promote parental involvement and family literacy. 
Ohio House Bill 2 amends and repeals specified sections regarding governance, sponsorship and management of community schools. 
Texas House Bill 1 provides appropriations for family literacy and adult education (including workforce development). This bill contains provisions that resemble a two-generation strategy, aimed at providing quality early education services to children while simultaneously providing their parents with job training and options to complete postsecondary degrees.
Utah House Bill 403 amends provisions related to the pilot online school survey program; includes a survey for parents to evaluate their children's schools and administrators, including whether the school or administrators solicit parent involvement in the school.

 

Matt Weyer is a policy specialist in NCSL's Education Program.