DECATUR, Ala. – The Alabama Literacy Act was passed in 2019. Its purpose is to bring the state up-to-par with others when it comes to getting schoolchildren proficient in reading, but we set out to learn how it has fared with interference from the pandemic.
At the time of the act’s passage, Alabama was ranked 49th in the nation when it came to reading.
Despite delays in portions of the Literacy Act getting implemented, sponsor, State Rep. Terri Collins said of what has been carried out, including provisions like teacher development training, as well as additional coaching for students in schools facing the highest need, are proving to show results.
“We have an intentioned focus on that bottom 5% of schools. Of those, about 52 schools in that bottom 5 percent, 37 moved out of that 5% so what we’re doing is working. We’re continuing to implement it,” Collins said.
The 2021-2022 school year was meant to be the time when the final phases of the Act were carried out. One item still waiting is a policy that would hold back third-graders who weren’t reading at grade level.
“From kindergarten to third grade you’re teaching children to learn to read. But after third grade, you’re expecting them to read in order to learn, therefore that’s why that division is there,” Collins said.
Governor Ivey has called for a delay in that provision this year, as the pandemic negatively affected learning in so many students.
Collins agrees with that decision, but the pandemic didn’t stop students from taking the ACAP, or the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program for the first time.
It’s a standardized test to gather data on a child’s proficiency in a number of subjects, including reading. Comparing that to data taken before the literacy act was passed, Collins said things are shifting.
“When I looked at who was in the bottom quartile from 2 years ago compared to this year, because we missed a year of that data, we had fewer in that bottom quartile,” she said. “The goal is not to hold anybody back, the goal is to make sure all our children read.”
Students will take the ACAP again this coming spring, and Collins said it will be more clear to see any trends happening and modify how to best help students going forward.