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Early Literacy and Reading Readiness Under 2023 Act 20:

A New Framework for Instruction, Assessment and Intervention


Background

As school district leaders start to take a deeper dive into all of the elements of 2023 Wisconsin Act 20, the enormity of the challenge presented by this literacy-focused legislation is becoming more apparent. Those challenges fall along multiple dimensions, including all of the following:

  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Student assessments and interventions
  • District policies and procedures
  • Defining staff roles and responsibilities
  • Developing staff knowledge and skills (including state-mandated training)
  • Financial costs and budgetary impacts

Initially, school districts may wish to focus their Act 20 implementation planning efforts on at least a two-year time horizon, covering all of 2023-24 and 2024-25. Various tasks and benchmarks can be built into that two-year period that will position the district for further steps that will occur in later school years.

Resources for Getting Started

  • WASB
    • The October 2023 issue of the Policy Perspectives newsletter (member login required)
    • The WASB “New Laws” bulletin covering Act 20 (member login required)
    • Subscriber access: The December 2023 issue of The FOCUS (subscriber login required)
  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
Key Terms Used in Act 20

For terms designated with asterisks:
* Each term designated with a single asterisk in this glossary is presented as expressly defined in section 118.016 of the state statutes, effective on July 1, 2024, for purposes of the use of the term within that specific statutory section.

**
Each term designated with a double asterisk in this glossary is presented as expressly defined in section 118.015 of the state statutes, for purposes of the use of the term within that specific statutory section.

"At Risk" *

At-risk” means a pupil scored below the 25th percentile on a universal screening assessment or diagnostic assessment, as indicated by the publisher of the assessment.

"Council on Early Literacy Curricula"

Council on Early Literacy Curricula” is an appointed 9-member body within the department of public instruction. Beginning in the 2023−24 school year and annually thereafter, the council is required to recommend to the department early literacy curricula and instructional materials for use in the following school year in grades kindergarten to 3. The council on early literacy curricula may recommend only early literacy curricula and instructional materials that (1) include all of the components of science-based early reading instruction, and (2) do not include three-cueing. 

“Diagnostic assessment” *

Diagnostic assessment” means a tool that includes all of the following:

  1. An assessment that evaluates a pupil’s skill in the areas listed in [the definition of a “universal screening assessment”], rapid naming, phonological awareness, word recognition, spelling, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and, when developmentally appropriate for the pupil, oral reading fluency and reading comprehension.
  2. An opportunity for a pupil’s parent to complete a family history survey to provide additional information about learning difficulties in the pupil’s family.

[Note: A diagnostic assessment must be administered (1) to each pupil who is identified as “at risk” on a universal screening assessment; and (2) any time that a parent or teacher submits a request for a diagnostic assessment of a pupil because the parent or teacher suspects that the pupil has characteristics of dyslexia. See § 118.016(3)(b). Each school district will select the diagnostic assessment(s) that the district will use. However, beginning in the 2025-26 school year, a school district may receive aid to reimburse costs associated with administering diagnostic assessments only if the school district (1) has submitted the required assessment data report to DPI for the previous school year; and (2) indicates in such report for the previous school year that the school district used only reading readiness assessments selected or approved by the DPI for that school year. See § 118.016(9)(a).]

“Dyslexia” *

Dyslexia” means a specific learning disability that is all of the following:

  1. Neurobiological in origin.
  2. Characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities that typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language. Consequences of these difficulties may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that may impede vocabulary growth and background knowledge.
  3. Often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities.
“Early literacy remediation plan”

Early literacy remediation plan” is the written plan that, pursuant to section 118.016(6) of the state statutes, each school board must establish for 5-year-old kindergarten through third grade, that must be posted on the school district’s website, and that must include all of the following:

  1. The universal screening assessment and diagnostic assessments that the school board uses in 5-year-old kindergarten through third grade.
  2. A description of the interventions the school district uses to address characteristics of dyslexia.
  3. A description of how the school district monitors pupil progress during interventions, including the frequency of monitoring and any assessment tools that are used for such monitoring.
  4. How the school board uses results of reading readiness assessments to evaluate early literacy instruction being provided in the school district.
  5. A parent notification policy that complies with the parent notification requirements found in sections 118.016(4), 118.016(5)(a)4, and 118.016(5)(a)5.
“Family history survey” *

Family history survey” means a questionnaire that includes questions about previous recommendations for summer reading support or outside tutoring, general interest in reading and books, family history of characteristics of dyslexia, and any known family struggles in reading or spelling. [Note: A family history survey is a required component of a “diagnostic assessment.”]

“Fidelity” *

Fidelity” means to perform in the manner that the author or publisher of a program or assessment intends.

“Fundamental skills screening assessment” *

Fundamental skills screening assessment” means an assessment that evaluates whether a pupil possesses phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge.

[Note: The fundamental skills screening assessment will be selected by the Department of Public Instruction. Beginning in 2024-25, school districts must administer the fundamental skills screening assessment to each pupil enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten at least 2 times during the school year. The dates of administration must comply with the intra-year timing requirements established in section 118.016(2).]  

“Inadequate rate of progress” *

Inadequate rate of progress” means a pupil’s rate of improvement that is minimal and that with continued intervention the pupil is unlikely to demonstrate grade-level skills by the end of the school year.

[Note: This term is used in connection with the implementation and monitoring of the pupil’s personal reading plan. When determining whether a pupil demonstrates an “inadequate rate of progress,” a school district must assess the criteria specified in section 118.016(5)(c).]

“Intensive instructional services”

Intensive instructional services” refers to the services that, subject to limited exceptions, a school district must provide to a pupil promoted to 4th grade who had a personal reading plan during the 3rd grade and who is not considered to have completed the personal reading plan. 

“Intensive summer reading program”

Intensive summer reading program” refers to the program that, subject to limited exceptions, a school district is required to provide to a pupil promoted to 4th grade who had a personal reading plan during the 3rd grade and who is not considered to have completed the personal reading plan. The program must be provided to an eligible pupil each summer until the pupil scores at grade-level in reading on a summative assessment.

“Intervention” *

Intervention” means an intervention that is all of the following:

  1. Explicit, direct instruction that is systematic, sequential, and cumulative and follows a logical plan of presenting the area of deficit that targets the specific needs of the pupil without presuming prior skills or knowledge of the pupil.
  2. Individualized instruction to meet the specific needs of a pupil in a setting that uses intensive, highly concentrated instruction methods and materials that maximize pupil engagement.
  3. Instruction that incorporates the simultaneous use of 2 or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and pupil practice.
“Literacy coaching program”

Literacy coaching program” is a state-level program that is established and supervised by the office of literacy within the Department of Public Instruction. Up to 64 full-time equivalent literacy coaching positions will be created, filled, and assigned to provide coaching services around the state. Section 115.39 of the state statutes defines the program and establishes specific criteria for the assignment of the literacy coaches. The program is currently scheduled to sunset at the conclusion of the 2027-28 school year (i.e., the statute establishing the program is repealed as of July 1, 2028).

“Parent” *

Parent” has the meaning given in [section 115.76(12)(a) of the statute statutes, which includes but is not limited to a biological parent, an adoptive parent, a legal guardian, or “a person acting as a parent of a child”].

“Parent notification policy”

Parent notification policy” refers to the component of a school district’s early literacy remediation plan that addresses at least the following parent notification mandates:

  1. A school district must provide each pupil’s parent with written notice of the results of a reading readiness assessment no later than 15 days after the reading readiness assessment is scored. The notice must include the content specified in section 118.016(4)(a) and, if applicable, section 118.016(4)(b).
  2. When a school district is required to administer a diagnostic assessment to a pupil, the district must provide the pupil’s parents with certain information, in writing, about dyslexia.
  3. School districts are required to post the district’s early literacy remediation plan on the district’s website, per section 118.016(4)(d). [Note: It might not be necessary to expressly mention the website posting requirement within the parent notification policy, but there would be no harm in doing so.]
  4. School districts are required to provide the pupil’s parent with a copy of the pupil’s personal reading plan, and school districts must obtain a copy of the pupil’s personal reading plan that has been signed by the pupil’s parent.
  5. Schools must notify the pupil’s parent of the pupil’s progress under a personal reading plan after providing the interventions described in the plan for 10 weeks.
“Personal reading plan”

Personal reading plan” means the plan developed for each pupil enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten to 3rd grade who is identified as at-risk based on either a universal screening assessment or a diagnostic assessment. The plan must be created within the deadlines specified in section 118.016(5)(b) and must include all of the content elements listed in section 118.016(5)(a)1.

“Phonics” **

Phonics” means the study of the relationships between sounds and words; this includes alphabetic principle, decoding, orthographic knowledge, encoding, and fluency.

“Policy specifying the criteria for promoting a pupil from the 3rd grade to the 4th grade”

Policy specifying the criteria for promoting a pupil from the 3rd grade to the 4th grade” refers to the written policy that each school board is required to adopt by no later than July 1, 2025. The policy must include the school board’s criteria for promotion and at least all of the components specified under sections 118.33(5m)(a) and (b) (i.e., certain mandates that apply when a pupil is promoted to fourth grade without having completed a personal reading plan that was in place while the pupil was in third grade). In addition, beginning on September 1, 2027, a school board may not promote a pupil from the third grade to the fourth grade unless the pupil satisfies the criteria for promotion specified in such local policy.  [Note: The DPI is required to establish a model policy by January 1, 2025.]

“Reading readiness assessment” *

Reading readiness assessment” means a fundamental skills screening assessment, universal screening assessment, or diagnostic assessment.

“Science-based early reading instruction” **

Science-based early reading instruction” means instruction that is systematic and explicit and consists of at least all of the following:

  1. Phonological awareness, including word awareness, rhyme recognition, repetition and creation of alliteration, syllable counting or identification, onset, and rime manipulation.
  2. Phonemic awareness, including phoneme identification, isolation, blending, segmentation, addition, substitution, and deletion.
  3. Phonics.
  4. Building background knowledge.
  5. Oral language development.
  6. Vocabulary building to develop lexical and morphological knowledge.
  7. Instruction in writing.
  8. Instruction in comprehension.
  9. Reading fluency.
“Standardized reading test”

Standardized reading test” refers to the test developed by the Department of Public Instruction and identified in section 121.02(1)(r) of the state statutes that school boards must annually administer to all pupils enrolled in the school district in grade 3, including pupils enrolled in district-authorized charter schools. 

[Note: Separate from and in addition to the “reading readiness assessments” required under Act 20, school boards will continue to be required to administer the third grade reading test and to provide “interventions or remedial reading services” for pupils in response to the results of the third grade standardized reading test, as further specified under section 121.02(1)(c).]  

“Three-cueing” **

Three-cueing” means any model, including the model referred to as meaning, structure, and visual cues, or MSV, of teaching a pupil to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues or memory.

[Note: Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, no public school, including a charter school, may provide instruction that incorporates three-cueing in the core reading curriculum for grades kindergarten to 3 or in supplemental materials, including materials used for reading intervention, for pupils in grades kindergarten to 3. See § 118.015(5).]

“Universal screening assessment” *

Universal screening assessment” means an assessment that evaluates a pupil’s skill in all of the following areas:

  1. Phonemic awareness.
  2. Decoding skills.
  3. Alphabet knowledge.
  4. Letter sound knowledge.
  5. Oral vocabulary.

[Note:  The universal screening assessment will be selected by the Department of Public Instruction. Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, school districts must administer the universal screening assessment to each pupil enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten through third grade at least 3 times during the year. The dates of administration must comply with the intra-year timing requirements established in section 118.016(3).]

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