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GOP legislation proposes massive overhaul of reading readiness program including numerous strict mandates on school boards

by | Jul 14, 2021 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue | 0 comments

Citing Wisconsin’s falling ranks in reading proficiency compared to other states, a number of state legislative Republicans have proposed a massive overhaul of the reading readiness program including a laundry list of stringent new state mandates relating to screening, assessments, interventions, parental notifications and reporting requirements.

The new mandates are very specific, even dictating what companies and products must be approved for use. The legislation is authored by Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay). See below for a comparison of current law and what is required by the bill.

Current Law:

School boards and independent charter schools must annually assess pupils enrolled in four-year-old kindergarten to second grade for reading readiness using an assessment of literacy fundamentals selected by the school board or independent charter school. The selected reading readiness assessment must evaluate whether a pupil possesses phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge. Current law requires a school board or independent charter school to provide interventions or remedial reading services to a pupil if the reading readiness assessment indicates that the pupil is at risk of reading difficulty with interventions or remedial reading services. Current law does not define “at-risk.”

Assembly Bill 446:

This bill requires school boards and independent charter schools to assess the early literacy skill of pupils in four-year-old-kindergarten to second grade using various screening assessments and to create a personal reading plan for each pupil in five-year-old kindergarten to second grade who is identified as at-risk based on a universal screening assessment or a level 1 screening assessment. Under the bill, “at-risk” means the pupil scored below the 25th percentile on an applicable screening assessment, as indicated by the screening assessment publisher.

Fundamental skills screening assessments; four-year-old kindergarten
Under the bill, school boards and independent charter schools must screen all pupils enrolled in four-year-old kindergarten at least two times each school year using a fundamental skills screening assessment. The bill specifies that the first screening must occur before the 46th day of the school term and that both screenings be completed by no later than 45 days before the last day of school. The bill defines a “fundamental skills screening assessment” as an assessment that evaluates a pupil’s phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge.
 
Tier 1 – Universal early learning screening assessments and interventions
Required universal screening assessments
Under the bill, school boards and independent charter schools must screen all pupils enrolled in five-year-old kindergarten to second grade at least three times each school year using a universal screening assessment. The bill specifies that the first universal screening must occur before the 46th day of the school term, the second universal screening must occur in the middle of the school term, and the third universal screening must occur no later than 45 days before the last day of school. The bill defines a “universal screening assessment” as an assessment that evaluates a pupil’s skill in phonemic awareness, decoding skills, rapid naming skills, alphabet knowledge, and letter sound knowledge.
 
Personal reading plan; at-risk pupils
If a pupil is identified as at-risk based on a universal screening assessment, the bill requires the school board or independent charter school to create a personal reading plan for the pupil. Under the bill, a personal reading plan must include various components related to addressing the pupil’s specific early literacy deficiencies, including interventions that will be provided to the pupil, how the pupil’s progress will be monitored, and strategies the pupil’s parent is encouraged to use to help the pupil achieve grade-level literacy skills. The bill further requires the school board or independent charter school to 1) provide the interventions included in the personal reading plan to the pupil, as soon as practicable; 2) monitor the pupil’s progress at least weekly; 3) provide a copy of the personal reading plan to the pupil’s parent; 4) obtain a copy of the reading plan signed by the pupil’s parent; and 5) after 12 weeks of providing the interventions required in the personal reading plan, notify the pupil’s parent of the pupil’s progress.
 
Tier II – Level 1 screening assessments and interventions
Required level 1 screening assessments
Under the bill, school boards and independent charter schools must screen a pupil enrolled in five-year-old kindergarten to second grade using a level 1 screening assessment within 20 days of both of the following having occurred: 1) the pupil being identified as at risk on a universal screening assessment and 2) the pupil demonstrating an inadequate rate of progress in the pupil’s early literacy skills after 12 weeks of receiving interventions outlined in the pupil’s personal reading plan. A school board or independent charter school must also screen a pupil using a level 1 screening assessment within 20 days of a request by a teacher or parent who suspects that the pupil has characteristics of dyslexia. The bill defines a “level 1 screening assessment” as a screening tool that evaluates a pupil’s skill in the skills assessed in a universal screening assessment as well as phonological awareness and encoding, and provides the pupil’s parent the opportunity to complete a family history survey about learning difficulties in the pupil’s family.
 
Personal reading plan after a level 1 screening assessment
If a pupil is identified as at-risk based on a level 1 screening assessment, the bill requires the school board or independent charter school to modify the personal reading plan for the pupil. Under the bill, the modified personal reading plan must include the same components as a personal reading plan based on a universal screening assessment, except the modified personal reading plan must be created to address the specific early literacy deficiencies identified by the level 1 screening assessment and must include intensive interventions to address those early literacy deficiencies. Under the bill, an “intensive intervention” is an intervention that includes instruction that: 1) is explicit, direct, systematic, sequential, and cumulative and follows a logical plan of presenting the alphabetic principle that targets the specific needs of the pupil without presuming prior skills or knowledge of the pupil; 2) is individualized to meet the specific needs of a pupil in a setting that uses intensive, highly concentrated instruction methods and materials that maximize pupil engagement; and 3) incorporates the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways during teacher presentations and pupil practice. A school board or independent charter school must provide the intensive interventions included in the personal reading plan to the pupil, as soon as practicable, and again monitor the pupil’s progress at least weekly, provide a copy of the personal reading plan to the pupil’s parent, obtain a copy of the reading plan signed by the pupil’s parent, and notify the pupil’s parent of the pupil’s progress after 12 weeks of providing interventions under this personal reading plan.
 
Tier III – Level 2 screening assessments
Required level 2 screening assessments
Under the bill, school boards and independent charter schools must screen a pupil enrolled in five-year-old kindergarten to second grade using a level 2 screening assessment within 20 days of both of the following having occurred: 1) the pupil being identified as at risk on a level 1 screening assessment and 2) the pupil
demonstrating an inadequate rate of progress in the pupil’s early literacy skills after 12 weeks of receiving intensive interventions outlined in the pupil’s personal reading plan, described above. A school board or independent charter school must also assess a pupil’s early literacy skills using a level 2 screening assessment within 20 days of a request by a teacher or parent who suspects that the pupil has characteristics of dyslexia. The bill defines a “level 2 screening assessment” as a screening tool that evaluates a pupil’s skill in the skills assessed in a universal screening assessment as well as phonological awareness, word recognition, fluency, spelling, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension, and provides the pupil’s parent the opportunity to complete a family history survey about learning difficulties in the pupil’s family. If a pupil is identified as at-risk based on a level 2 screening assessment, the bill requires the school board or independent charter school to provide information to the pupil’s parent about how to make a special education referral.
 
Approved reading readiness screening assessments
Under the bill, by July 15, 2022, the Department of Public Instruction must establish and maintain lists of approved fundamental skills screening assessments, universal screening assessments, level 1 screening assessments, and level 2 screening assessments (collectively, reading readiness screening assessments) on its Internet site. DPI must also submit these lists to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature. During the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, DPI must include specific assessments on its list of approved fundamental skills screening assessments and specific assessments on its list of approved universal screening assessments. On the list of approved fundamental skills screening assessments, DPI must include the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), the Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR), and Acadience’s Preschool Early Literacy Indicators (PELI). On the list of approved universal screening assessments, DPI must include the Dynamics Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills 8th edition, commonly known as DIBELS 8th edition; the Acadience reading assessment; FastBridge reading assessments; and the Renaissance Star Early Literacy assessment.
 
State funding for reading readiness screening assessments
Under the bill, DPI must pay each school board and independent charter school for the per pupil cost of each reading readiness screening assessment required to be administered under the bill. However, beginning in the 2023-24 school year, a school board or independent charter school is eligible for the state funding provided in the bill only if the school board or independent charter school submits an annual report to DPI and in that report indicates that the school board or charter school used only approved reading readiness screening assessments in the previous school year. Under current law, DPI pays school boards and independent charter schools for the per pupil cost of the reading readiness assessment selected by the school board or independent charter school.
 
PARENT NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
Under the bill, a school board or independent charter school must provide a pupil’s results on a reading readiness screening assessment to the pupil’s parent by no later than 15 days after the applicable assessment is scored. The results provided to the parent must include the pupil’s overall score, the pupil’s score on each literacy skill category assessed by the assessment, the pupil’s percentile rank score, if available, the score on the assessment that indicates a pupil is at-risk, and a plain language explanation of the literacy skills that were evaluated by the assessment.
In addition, if a school board or independent charter school is required to screen a pupil using a level 1 or level 2 screening assessment, the school board or independent charter school must provide the pupil’s parent with information related to characteristics of dyslexia, including information about the common indicators of characteristics of dyslexia and appropriate interventions and accommodations for pupils with characteristics of dyslexia.
 
The bill also requires each school board and independent charter school to have an early literacy remediation plan. An early literacy remediation plan must include information about screening assessments used to identify at-risk pupils, the interventions used to address characteristics of dyslexia, and monitoring pupil progress related to early literacy skills. Under the bill, each school district and independent charter school must post its early literacy remediation plan on its Internet site.
 
Under current law, a school board or independent charter school must report the results of a reading readiness assessment to a pupil’s parent. Current law does not provide a deadline by which the reading readiness results must be provided to parents.
 
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Under the bill, school boards and independent charter schools must annually, by July 15, report to DPI: 1) the number of pupils who were identified as at-risk based on a reading readiness screening assessment administered in the previous school year; 2) the number of five-year-old kindergarten to second grade pupils who began receiving literacy interventions or remedial reading services in the previous school year, by grade; and 3) the total number of five-year-old kindergarten to second grade pupils who received literacy interventions or remedial reading services in the previous school year. The school board or independent charter school must also report the names of the specific reading readiness screening assessments the school board or independent charter school used to screen pupils, as required under the bill, in the previous school year. Annually, by November 30, DPI must compile the information it receives from school boards and independent charter schools and submit a report to the legislature.
 
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