The Literacy Act: Don’t Prematurely Delay What’s Working

We have been sharing the same message since the inception of the Alabama Literacy Act in 2019: the law is good for our children. 

In the final hours of the legislative session, SB 94 was passed by the Legislature, which would delay the 3rd grade retention provision of the Alabama Literacy Act by two years. A+ opposes this premature bill. 

The bottom line is that this delay may be viewed as a delay of the entire Literacy Act and quash critical momentum toward our shared goal of giving every child the foundational reading skills they need to be successful. Now more than ever, students need the support the Alabama Literacy Act provides. It assesses where students are. It provides interventions to help struggling readers. It trains teachers in the science of reading. It gives parents clear guidance on where their children have needs and how those needs are being addressed. Finally, it stops the practice of passing students along without the fundamental skills they need to succeed in school and the workforce.

Research shows that students who cannot read on grade level by fourth grade have little to no chance of graduating. Socially promoting students sets them up to fall further behind in other subjects, like math, which requires more word problems as students advance. A 2017 Harvard study showed students retained in third grade under a similar Florida law performed better than their peers in middle school, had higher GPAs in high school, and took fewer remedial courses.

No one, especially A+, wants to needlessly retain students due to the impact of a pandemic that was beyond their control. However, any potential decision to delay is premature and should be made based on data. Last week, the Alabama State Department of Education released strong preliminary participation results for the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) in grades 2-8. An impressive 93% of Alabama’s students participated in the assessment and schools are expected to receive individual grade reports in August. If data shows a delay is necessary, the Legislature can make that determination later this year or in January 2022 before any potential retention occurs.

Alabama is at a critical juncture. SB 94 sends the wrong message about the progress the state has made the last two years. Please contact Governor Kay Ivey and ask her to veto this legislation by clicking here.