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Legislative Update

Gov. Evers signs reading legislation into law

by | Jul 19, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

Governor Tony Evers today announced that he had signed Assembly Bill 321, related to updating early literacy instruction, into law as 2023 Act 20.

From the governor’s announcement:

The bill relating to literacydrafted in coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)makes several comprehensive updates to literacy instruction in the state designed to help improve reading and literacy outcomes for K-12 students.

We have to ensure our kids have the reading and literacy tools and skills to be successful both in and out of the classroom. This bill, modeled after initiatives that have been successful in other states and fine-tuned with significant changes throughout the legislative process, is a step in the right direction, said Gov. Evers. But at the end of the day, the bottom line for me is that reading curriculum is only one small part of the equation to ensuring our kids are prepared for success—we know that kids who are hungry, in crisis, or experiencing other challenges at home might have trouble focusing in class or on their studies, be distracted or disengaged at school, and have a hard time completing their coursework. 

So, if we want to improve outcomes for kids in our classrooms across the board, this bill is only one small part of the work we have to do—we must continue making meaningful investments in our kids and our schools, bolster our education workforce to help keep class sizes small, and expand access to mental health services and healthy meals in our schools so our kids can bring their full and best selves to our classrooms.” 

Assembly Bill 321, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 20:

  • Creates an Office of Literacy to be known as the Wisconsin Reading Center at DPI; 
  • Creates the Council on Early Literacy Curricula, which will include nine members nominated by the state superintendent, speaker of the Assembly, and the senate majority leader and will meet annually to make recommendations to DPI that are then submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance for passive review;  
  • Creates a literacy coaching program through which the Office of Literacy would assign 64 contracted literacy coaches to traditional public schools, independent charter schools, and private schools participating in the choice program to provide support to administrators, school-based literacy coaches, principals, and teachers;
  • Creates grants to cover 50 percent of the costs of purchasing approved curriculum and instructional materials;  
  • Prohibits the use of instruction or materials that contain the “three-cueing” method of literacy instruction, defined as any model that teaches a student to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues or memory, beginning in the 2024-25 school years 
  • Increases the frequency of screening and diagnostic reading assessments and prescribes specific interventions, including the creation of personal literacy plans that identify specific skill deficiencies, provide goals and benchmarks of progress, and describe additional servicesand  
  • Requires changes in how educators are prepared to teach reading, including prohibiting the state superintendent from approving a teacher preparatory program unless the program prepares a teacher to teach using science-based early literacy instruction and does not incorporate three-cueing and requiring certain educators to take the Lexia Learning Systems LLC, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) or another program endorsed by the Center for Effective Reading Instruction and that is offered by the Leadership in Literacy Institute or a provider that meets specified criteria. 

The 2023-25 biennial budget includes $50 million in the Joint Committee on Finance’s supplemental appropriation for efforts to improve reading and literacy outcomes for K-12 students, including those included in 2023 Wisconsin Act 20.

State Rep Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) author of Assembly Bill 321 applauded the signing:

“I am grateful Governor Evers signed this bipartisan fix to our reading crisis,” Kitchens said, “Science-based reading programs are working in blue states and red states.  I am confident it will also work in our purple state. It is the same way most of us learned to read in the first place.”

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