Equity Is the Key to Achieving Statewide Reading Gains. Will Implementation of the New Reading Law Reflect That? (2023)

Equity Is the Key to Achieving Statewide Reading Gains. Will Implementation of the New Reading Law Reflect That? (1)

by Rupen R. Fofaria,

Melissa Hedt pauses before entering Susan Engstrom’s second-grade classroom. She’s thinking back over the last several years and the frustration she felt on behalf of teachers who didn’t have what they needed to move all students forward in reading growth.

“We recognized that the curriculum and instruction we had in place for literacy was not effective for all students, specifically African American and Exceptional Children,” says Hedt, deputy superintendent of accountability and instruction for the Asheville City Schools. “They were not growing at the rate that we would like to see.”

The data for the 2021-22 school year back this up. At Asheville Primary, a school that was about 23% minority enrollment, 63.2% of third-graders tested as proficient. At Hall Fletcher Elementary, with about 42% minority enrollment, 49% tested as proficient.

The district started using Wit & Wisdom for its core curriculum to focus on building students’ background knowledge, and it’s supplementing that with phonics and phonemic awareness programs. Hedt smiles, and then she walks into Engstrom’s classroom at Hall Fletcher for a Fundations phonics lesson.

“A multisyllabic word is a word with more than one syllable,” Engstrom reminds her class. “So I’m going to build a word, and you guys can read it to me. Ready?”

She writes the word “unit” on a large whiteboard at the front of the room. She then moves methodically through the lesson. The letter “u” in the first syllable makes a long vowel sound, she says, because it’s an open syllable. The “i” in the next syllable is short, though, because “n” and “t” close it.

Hedt watches as each student is coming out of their seats to volunteer answers. Her smile has almost grown to a laugh.

There’s a strong equity basis in why the state is shifting toward instruction grounded in the science of reading. Making significant gains in reading acquisition, and certainly coming anywhere close to the 95% that some research says is possible, won’t happen without ensuring historically under-resourced groups get what they need.

Leaders in Asheville City Schools praise the state’s approach so far. They say that equitable allocation of resources — more for communities that need them most — is necessary, though. And they hope that neither funding nor difficulty will stand in its way.

“Sometimes it does feel like equity gets thrown out there as a barrier to doing something,” said Sarah Cain, executive director of exceptional children and federal programs in Asheville City Schools. “But this is all about equitable access to good instruction. We all deserve that. All of our children deserve that.”

Why equitable implementation matters

The state’s efforts to implement the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021, the reading law that grounds instruction in the science of reading, are considerable.

The General Assembly has paid for educators to be trained in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). It’s a large investment, at more than $90 million spent to date.

The law requires all colleges of education to prepare future teachers with coursework grounded in the science of reading.

The General Assembly also asked the Department of Public Instruction to create a number of resources. These include literacy instruction standards and digital reading guides.

And DPI created a lot of resources on its own accord — fact sheets, memos, webinars, and checklists. The volume is impressive, particularly given the short time since the law was enacted.

But the abundance of resources sheds light on perhaps the most pivotal factor in successful implementation — districts’ ability to acquire, navigate, and productively make use of resources in such a way that effective instruction reaches students.

Consider that LETRS is just a starting point. It has helped give teachers knowledge of the science of reading and, perhaps more importantly, served as a stake in the ground that has moved the state away from ineffective teaching methods.

But there isn’t yet evidence that shows a direct connection between LETRS training and significant reading gains for students. The study most widely cited shows that teacher knowledge improves.

To move beyond that, schools need lots of things — including strong instructional materials, regular monitoring and assessment, and intervention support.

All of this requires a commodity that’s increasingly scarce in public schools: capacity.

As DPI’s lead for implementing the Read to Achieve Act, Kelley Bendheim has visited several districts. Sometimes she talks about the state’s implementation plans; other times she gathers feedback. A lot of the time, she talks about the resources DPI created.

That’s when she sometimes gets a surprising reminder.

“We’re spouting resources and how to run a [professional learning community] around LETRS, and they want to do something with it,” she says while rattling off five or six other things educators are responsible for doing. “But when they get back, they just don’t have the manpower and the physical resources to make it happen.”

And those resources tend to be leaner in districts with higher concentrations of poverty.

The courts say equity matters, too

Capacity is what the Leandro case is about.

The 2019 WestEd report, an analysis of the state’s education system ordered by the Leandro trial court, makes plain the barriers that certain students and communities face. It also provided evidence of the systemic nature of these barriers.

High-poverty schools have fewer human and material resources, the report says. This contributes to students in those schools trailing their peers in access to opportunities and achievement of outcomes.The 2019 E(race)ing Inequities report from the Center for Racial Equity in Education documented these access issues before the pandemic.

“Many well-meaning professionals working in high-poverty schools struggle to overcome barriers to learning that have been created through policies (or lack thereof) that perpetuate or repeat the failure to provide the educational resources, support, and opportunities students require to have their educational needs met,” reads the WestEd report.

While most news coverage of the Leandro case has focused on whether the General Assembly will fully fund the plan, a dollar amount that continues to change, most of the words in the Leandro Plan are devoted to how the state can provide students access to sound, basic education — not just for how much cost.

And a lot of those words deal with allocation of resources. The success — or failure — of science of reading implementation could be a case study in the importance of capacity and those resources.

But, can starting with equality actually be equitable for moving reading proficiency?

While many of the resources provided by the state come by way of information and materials, there is also allocation of human resources. The first of that happened this year – with the General Assembly approving funding for 115 early literacy specialists.

In a state where each of the state’s 115 districts is behind in reading proficiency, this approach to build capacity everywhere comes with the intention of equity, DPI officials say. The idea is that when everyone is behind, getting support everywhere is getting it to where it’s needed most.

“The goal in this implementation piece is increasing the capacity and empowering the people,” said Amy Rhyne, the director of DPI’s Office of Early Learning, “as opposed to us putting out mandates and putting out memos. It’s just not going to work like that.”

The model, Rhyne said, has the early literacy specialist working with the district’s designated literacy team or “literacy lead” — a designation each district submitted to DPI when LETRS training began. The specialists will work top-down, to get DPI resources into the district, as well as bottom-up, to provide support to coaches in schools identified as low-performing.

So far, DPI has hired early literacy specialists for about half the districts. Those districts seem happy with the early literacy specialist model. Asheville got to give a great coach a promotion, but keep her local. New Hanover County liked its specialist so much it wants another. The role is so rewarding for folks who have toiled long and hard to teach kids to read, DPI has even gotten applications from principals.

But for some districts, filling even one early literacy specialist role is difficult. It’s an indication of systemic inequity, and a flaw in a model that depends on ensuring there is a specialist in each district.

“We probably will not have one come out of Clinton City,” said that district’s curriculum and instruction head, Theresa Melenas. “It’s just the reality of it. So what’s happening to this money that was allocated in July?”

One of the issues with hiring, districts report, is that the pay scale is too low to entice qualified applicants. The General Assembly initially allocated $14 million for the positions. DPI has asked for more during this session.

Rhyne said last year that the 115 literacy specialists are a beginning, acknowledging that this beginning aims for equality. She said the plan is for these specialists to be on the ground and identify, within each district, where more resources are needed. Then the state can start looking at more equitable allocations of coaching support.

“Somebody has to coach and sustain all the time,” Rhyne said recently. “And if I’m a high-performing [specialist] then I can find within my coaches or my teachers some high-performing folks who I can continue to empower and build. And you’re building your capacity and your pipeline, too.”

On systems and equity

Asheville City Schools is relatively well resourced for its region. Even so, district leaders say they see resource gaps for historically marginalized groups. The district closed Asheville Primary last year — amid declining enrollment there, it was an effort to bolster resources elsewhere.

Like at Ira B. Jones Elementary, where Ruafika Cobb walks the halls and embraces her students. The fourth-year principal banters with her young students and sits and watches them read and write. As she leaves a student’s side, she has a habit of turning back, to steal one more sight.

These kids are Cobb’s why.

For her, systems exist on levels. There’s a state level, and then there’s her school and community.

While the state system walks toward equity, she grasps at it tightly, now. At her school, 40.5% of students live in economic disadvantage. Equity can’t wait. She celebrates the state’s approach, but like leaders in her district, she knows ensuring every district has the capacity to support teachers in getting vital instruction to students is urgent.

“We are literally asking a teacher to wire a student’s brain so that they can become proficient readers – we teach them to read,” she said. “When we talk about equity, and excellence with equity, that is how we provide equity for all of our students.”

Both Rhyne and Bendheim said they understand the importance of equitably implementing a law that’s as exhaustive as the Excellent Public Schools Act. Recognizing what research actually has good evidence is as difficult, sometimes, as the actual teaching of reading. It’s hard to make sure instructional practices are sound without sufficient allocation of human resources.

Getting some capacity everywhere is a necessary beginning, they say. With someone on the ground in each district, equitable decisions about further allocations will be more informed.

“We’re learning – all the districts are learning – and it’s different for everyone,” Bendheim said. “But I do think we start discussing it right now as a systems approach, until we get to where you’re talking about — at that low-performing [level]. But the system has to be in place.”

This article first appeared on EducationNC and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Equity Is the Key to Achieving Statewide Reading Gains. Will Implementation of the New Reading Law Reflect That? (2)Equity Is the Key to Achieving Statewide Reading Gains. Will Implementation of the New Reading Law Reflect That? (3)

This post was previously published on ednc.org under a Creative Commons License.


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How are literacy and equity linked? ›

If your literacy program is not structured to get the most number of kids to the top, or to that level of society, or to proficiency, there is no equity. There can be no equity, no social justice, without literacy.” Kareem Weaver, The Reading League Conference, 2021.

What is tier 1 2 and 3 in reading? ›

Tier 1 = Universal or core instruction. Tier 2 = Targeted or strategic instruction/intervention. Tier 3 = Intensive instruction/intervention.

What is the science of reading law in Arizona? ›

Arizona's Move on When Reading law was first enacted in 2010 and implemented in 2013. The purpose of the legislation is to identify struggling readers and to provide them with specific, targeted interventions so that the are reading at or above grade level by the end of the 3rd grade.

What is the PA science of reading legislation? ›

It defines “science of reading” as evidence-based instructional and assessment practices that integrates listening, speaking, reading, spelling and writing in the development of oral and written language skills. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny County, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

What does equity in literacy mean? ›

Defining Equity Literacy. Equity Literacy is the cultivation of the skills and consciousness that enable us to recognize, respond to, and redress conditions that deny some students access to educational and other opportunities enjoyed by their peers.

Why is literacy equity important? ›

Through equity literacy we prepare ourselves to understand how experience disparities, not just quantitatively measured outcome disparities, affect student access to equitable educational opportunity free of bias, inequity, and discrimination.

What is the difference between tier 1 and Tier 2 reading interventions? ›

Tier 1 instruction is standards-driven, focusing on students' broad skills and generalizing to a learning target. In contrast, Tier 2 intervention targets a specific skill deficit that has been identified through assessment. Instruction and intervention targets this specific skill.

What does Tier 2 RTI for reading mean? ›

Tier 2 instruction should take place in small homogenous groups ranging from three to four students using curricula that address the major components of reading instruction (comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary).

What is tier 1 and Tier 2 and Tier 3? ›

Tier 1 Suppliers: These are direct suppliers of the final product. Tier 2 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 1 suppliers. Tier 3 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 2 suppliers. These tiers can extend longer than three.

What is the rule of reading law? ›

Reading law was the method used in common law countries, particularly the United States, for people to prepare for and enter the legal profession before the advent of law schools. It consisted of an extended internship or apprenticeship under the tutelage or mentoring of an experienced lawyer.

What is the purpose of reading law? ›

Read law or Reading the law is the act of studying to become a lawyer. Prior to creation of law schools, reading law was necessary in order to enter the legal profession. Generally, students would read law under a current lawyer or judge as part of an apprenticeship.

What states allow you to read the law? ›

Besides California, the states that allow aspiring lawyers to take the bar exam after reading the law, without law school, are Virginia, Vermont and Washington. In three other states—New York, Maine and Wyoming—aspiring lawyers can study in a law office, combined with some period of time in law school.

What is the read Right program? ›

Read Right is a highly structured reading intervention program designed to produce rapid reading improvement for children, teens, and adults regardless of labels that have been attached—RTI, Title I, English language learners, or special education (including dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, autistic, etc.).

How many states are using science of reading? ›

Over the past decade, 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed new laws or implemented other policies designed to bring early reading instruction in line with what psychology and cognitive science research have shown about how children learn to read.

What are the 5 components of reading identified by the National Reading Panel that when taught successfully lead to the highest success in reading? ›

The National Reading Panel identified five key concepts at the core of every effective reading instruction program: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.

What are the 4 equity abilities? ›

The four abilities are recognizing, responding, redressing, and cultivating and sustaining.

What are the 5 abilities of equity literacy? ›

It includes five critical abilities and examples including the ability to recognize, respond, and redress bias, inequities, and oppressive ideas, and to actively cultivate and sustain anti-oppressive ideology in institutions.

What is the best definition of equity? ›

The term “equity” refers to fairness and justice and is distinguished from equality: Whereas equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances.

Why equity is the most important? ›

Equity can provide a return on investment.

If a company is doing well, its shares will increase in value. This means that shareholders can make money by selling their shares for more than they paid for them.

How do you promote equity literacy? ›

Through an equity lens, literacy instruction needs to include opportunities for children to:
  1. Read books that mirror their experiences and languages and provide insight into the lives of other students;
  2. Share with others what they've learned through reading;
  3. Read for pleasure and for extended periods of time;
Nov 1, 2020

What are the components of equitable literacy? ›

Description: In this course participants will learn about research-based instructional practices to support adolescent development in each of the five essential elements of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

What are Tier 2 interventions for struggling readers? ›

Tier 2 interventions include increasing the amount of instructional time in addition to tier 1 reading instruction. At the elementary level, the recommended group size is three to five students. The interventions should take place three to five times per week for 20 to 40 minutes.

How do you implement Tier 2 in the classroom? ›

Remember, teachers who provide Tier 2 interventions should:
  1. Provide instruction with modeling.
  2. Check that students are doing the activity correctly.
  3. Have students demonstrate what they are doing.
  4. Have students repeat instructions.
  5. Provide corrective feedback to individual students.
  6. Provide multiple examples.

What are Tier 2 & 3 reading interventions? ›

Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions focus on foundational reading skills, which include phonemic awareness, decoding, comprehension, and fluency. Tier 2 instructional sessions focus on up to three of these skills and are used with students who score below the benchmark cut point.

What does Tier 3 reading mean? ›

Tier 3 instruction often focuses on phonemic awareness and decoding, especially for younger students or those with very limited reading proficiency. However, comprehension and vocabulary are also critical (National Reading Panel (NRP), 2000).

What are Tier 3 strategies for RTI? ›

Tier 3: Intensive interventions

This is the most intense level of RTI. Tier 3 can mean small group work, or it can mean individual lessons. Most kids who get this support still spend a lot of their day in a general education classroom. Yet they may spend bigger parts of the day in a resource room.

What are some examples of Tier 3 interventions? ›

Examples of Tier 3 interventions might include: individual counseling, family counseling; or administration of a Functional Behavioral Assessment to provide concrete data to create an individual Behavior Support Plan.

What is Tier 1 vs Tier 2 vs Tier 3 vs Tier 4? ›

As a general rule, the difference between data center tiers is that tier 1 offers no redundancy of any critical system, tier 2 has partial redundancy in their electrical & HVAC systems, tier 3 contains dual redundancy for power & cooling equipment, and tier 4 possesses fully redundant infrastructure.

What is the difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 benefits? ›

Tier 1 is the equivalent of Social Security benefits and Tier 2 is like an employer's pension plan. Social Security Benefits: Payments made under Title II of the Social Security Act.

What does Tier 1 and Tier 2 mean? ›

Tier 1 & Tier 2 suppliers refer primarily to suppliers of the automotive industry. A Tier 1 supplier supplies products (usually parts) directly to an OEM (What is an OEM?). The difference, then, is that a Tier 2 supplier supplies products to a Tier 1 supplier (who then supplies the parts to an OEM).

What is the first rule of reading? ›

First Rule of Reading: Keep Your Eyes on the Words.

What is the #1 rule of law? ›

Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: Publicly promulgated. Equally enforced. Independently adjudicated.

What does Raz say about the rule of law? ›

According to Raz, the basic premise of the rule of law is that law should be capable of guiding behaviour. prospective, open, clear and relatively stable. requirements include: an independent judiciary, natural justice, easily accessible courts and a restriction on crime-preventing agencies from perverting the law.

What are the benefits of reading case law? ›


Should I take notes on law school readings? ›

Taking notes is so important in law school. Your professors will test what they discuss in class. So, having good class notes to refer back to when you create your outlines is crucial.

How much of law school is reading? ›

In law school, you will be reading and writing a ton.

How much exactly will depend on the class, of course, but 50–100 pages of reading a night is not uncommon. However, you will also take special legal writing and academic support classes early on that teach you how to read cases and analyze information quickly.

Does law involve reading? ›

As of today, only four states allow bar applicants to read the law instead of attending law school: California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Exact requirements for law readers vary by state.

Can states say no to federal laws? ›

Ableman found that the Constitution gave the Supreme Court final authority to determine the extent and limits of federal power and that the states therefore do not have the power to nullify federal law.

How many laws are on the books in the United States? ›

Congress has enacted approximately 200–600 statutes during each of its 115 biennial terms so that more than 30,000 statutes have been enacted since 1789.

What is the core of the reading program? ›

A core reading program is the primary instructional tool that teachers use to teach children to learn to read and ensure they reach reading levels that meet or exceed grade-level standards.

What is the failure free reading program? ›

Failure Free Reading is a language development program designed to improve vocabulary, fluency, word recognition, and reading comprehension for students in kindergarten through grade 12 who score in the bottom 15% on standardized tests and who have not responded to conventional beginning reading instruction.

What are the four reading programs? ›

The Four Blocks Reading Program, or Four Blocks Framework, is a balanced literacy program that has been in use in elementary schools since 1989. Central to the program is the use on a daily basis of four elements of literacy instruction -- guided reading, self selected reading, writing and working with words.

What state has the best reading level? ›

New Hampshire has the highest literacy rate in the US, with a rate of 88.5%. Alaska has the second highest literacy rate, at 87.3%, and Vermont is the third state with the highest literacy rate, at 87.2%.

Why did schools stop teaching phonics? ›

The essential idea in whole language was that children construct their own knowledge and meaning from experience. Teaching them phonics wasn't necessary because learning to read was a natural process that would occur if they were immersed in a print-rich environment.

What do Fountas and Pinnell say about the science of reading? ›

Fountas and Pinnell believe that all children need explicit instruction in phonics, reading, and writing. F&P resources support children's attention to every letter, sound, and word in order to read and write with accuracy, fluency, and understanding.

Which factor is the strongest predictor of children's success in reading? ›

One of the strongest predictors of reading success in first grade and beyond is a student's level of phonological awareness at the end of kindergarten. If you have students who are struggling in this area, then early intervention is key.

What are the big six reading practices for teachers? ›

Research has shown that there are six key components that contribute to successful beginning reading. Because of the importance of these components, they have become known as the 'Big Six': oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

How does equity relate to education? ›

Students come to school with diverse backgrounds, abilities, talents, and challenges. Schools ensure equity by recognizing, respecting, and acting on this diversity. A common misperception is that equity means that all students are treated equally in all situations.

How does the Matthew effect relate to literacy and equity *? ›

Enter the Matthew Effect. The term describes the phenomenon where students who begin their literacy education successfully continue to do well later in school, while those who begin poorly do worse.

How do you ensure equity of literacy for all students? ›

Through an equity lens, literacy instruction needs to include opportunities for children to:
  1. Read books that mirror their experiences and languages and provide insight into the lives of other students;
  2. Share with others what they've learned through reading;
  3. Read for pleasure and for extended periods of time;
Nov 1, 2020

What is the relationship between literacy and freedom? ›

Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Literacy offers that opportunity. It opens a door to freedom that can be conceived only once it is obtained.

What is equity and why is it important in education? ›

Equity in education aims to create a level playing field for all children by supporting those who need it most. Bolstering pre-primary (ECEC) provision and home learning environments for disadvantaged children has significant benefits for children – and for the long-term resilience of societies and economies.

What are some examples of equity in education? ›

An example of equity in education can be found in teachers who are able to adapt their teaching style to match a student's learning capabilities. Some students thrive as auditory learners, who process information out loud and ask questions as needed.

What is an example of equity in a classroom? ›

Equity in the classroom means making sure every student has the resources and support they need to be successful. In an equitable classroom, individual factors don't hold back students from reaching their full learning potential — factors like: Race. Culture.

What is the Matthew effect of reading? ›

As it relates to reading, the Matthew effect refers to the idea that good readers read more, causing them to become even better readers. Conversely, poor readers shy away from reading, which has a negative impact on their growth in reading ability. This causes the gap between good readers and poor readers to widen.

What is the impact of reading literacy? ›

Literacy is essential to developing a strong sense of well-being and citizenship. Children who have developed strong reading skills perform better in school and have a healthier self-image. They become lifelong learners and sought-after employees.

What is the Matthew effect in reading comprehension? ›

In the educational community, "Matthew Effect" refers to the idea that, in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. When children fail at early reading and writing, they begin to dislike reading.

What are the four abilities of equity literacy? ›

The four abilities are recognizing, responding, redressing, and cultivating and sustaining.

Why is it important to promote literacy in today's society? ›

Literacy gives people access to that information. Literacy plays a significant role in reducing gender, race, nationality, and religious inequality that favors one group over another in access to education, property, employment, health care, legal, and civic participation.

What is the relationship between reading and literacy? ›

Literacy is not just reading. The chief components of literacy are reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening. As educators, we need to be thinking about what students are reading, writing, and talking about.

What is the difference between literacy and literacy? ›

The ability to read and write is called literacy; its opposite is illiteracy. There are several degrees of literacy and many ways to define the benchmarks of who is literate and who is not. In some societies a person who can read the letters of the alphabet or read and write his or her own name is considered literate.


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