SECTION 1. (a) There is hereby established the Massachusetts early reading council to enhance children’s language and literacy development with the goal of achieving reading proficiency and higher levels of learning for all students by the end of third grade, including, but not limited to, those eligible for free or reduced cost lunches, early intervention or individualized education plans, English-language learners, and advanced learners, to consist of 17 members: the secretary of education who shall serve as co-chair; a recognized expert in children's language and literacy development, to be appointed by the Massachusetts governor, who shall serve as co-chair; the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on education or their designees; 2 persons to be appointed by the commissioner of the department of early education and care, 1 of whom shall be a member of the department of early education and care’s parent advisory committee and 1 of whom shall be a representative from a licensed early education and care program; an early childhood educator to be appointed by the Massachusetts Head Start Association; an expert in children’s language and literacy development to be appointed by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education; a superintendent of a local education agency to be appointed by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents; a principal of a public school to be appointed by the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association; a sitting school committee member to be appointed by the Massachusetts School Committee Association; a pre-kindergarten to third grade teacher with reading expertise to be appointed by the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts; a pre-kindergarten to third grade teacher with reading expertise to be appointed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association; a mayor to be appointed by the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association; a pediatrician to be appointed by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; a representative of the Massachusetts Reading Association; and a representative of Strategies for Children.
(b) Council members shall each be appointed for a term of 3 years. No member shall serve for more than 2 consecutive terms. The council shall meet no less than 4 times annually. The secretary of education shall appoint personnel necessary to coordinate the activities of the council and provide administrative support to the council, as requested.
(c) The council shall: (1) advise the secretary of education, the commissioner of the department of early education and care, the commissioner of the department of elementary and secondary education, and other appropriate public agencies on the development, implementation and oversight of programs and services intended to support young children’s language and literacy development from birth through third grade including, but not limited to, family engagement and home-visiting programs, high-quality infant and toddler programs, high-quality pre-kindergarten, high-quality full-day kindergarten, and pre-kindergarten to grade 3 alignment of curriculum and instruction; (2) help facilitate interagency collaboration and communication to improve alignment across diverse educational settings and levels; (3) review the annual plans and the proposed annual budgets of the department of early education and care and the department of elementary and secondary education, and make recommendations to the commissioners in regard thereto; (4) make recommendations regarding any legislation and regulations that would affect children’s language and literacy development in light of the goal of the council; and (5) cultivate public-private partnerships and encourage sharing of best practices between schools and community-based organizations, particularly early education and care and afterschool programs.
SECTION 2. The council shall develop recommendations and benchmarks for measuring progress by the department of elementary and secondary education and the department of early education and care, including, but not limited to, each of the following areas: (a) Professional development and instructional leadership in reading and English language arts, consistent with the principles that effective professional development: (1) is data driven, collaborative and sustained over time; (2) occurs in collaborative professional cultures that support ongoing improvement; (3) includes quality standards for identifying appropriate professional development offerings; (4) is provided within a rigorous accountability system to evaluate the qualifications of professional development providers and the effectiveness of trainings; and (5) is provided in diverse settings, including online communities, and through diverse methods to address the needs of all educators.
(b) Curriculum guidelines for districts, schools, and licensed early education and care programs, to support best practices and encourage improved alignment across educational settings and levels, acknowledging that recommended curricula should: (1) draw on evidence demonstrating effectiveness in improving children’s learning and emphasize integrated learning experiences that address phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension; (2) promote developmentally appropriate educational practices including play to accommodate young children’s learning styles; (3) provide additional guidance on best practices to meet the learning needs of children eligible for early intervention and individualized education plans, English language learners, and children otherwise deemed at risk of falling below age appropriate benchmarks for language and literacy development; (4) include strategies for incorporating reading and writing standards from the Massachusetts curriculum framework for English language arts and literacy into other subjects; and (5) provide guidance to early education and care providers on the use of curricula, materials, and instructional techniques for programs serving children prior to school entry.
(c) An assessment system to monitor and report on children’s progress toward achieving benchmarks in language and literacy development prior to grade three across educational levels and program settings to include, in collaboration with the department of early education and care and the department of elementary and secondary education, exploring the establishment of state approved assessment tools for measuring school readiness and children’s reading proficiency from pre-kindergarten to grade three.
(d) Birth to age five school readiness plans to be developed by districts and schools, in partnership with community members and organizations, and including literacy plans for entering students and their families.
(e) Family engagement strategies for improving communication and interactions between families and educational settings frequented by children, including guidance on the following: (1) community outreach and family education on children’s language and literacy development; (2) home visiting programs to support daytime learning and prioritize daily family conversation and family reading time; (3) professional development to help educators and instructional leaders communicate with native and non-native English speaking parents; (4) book reading and storytelling as healthy alternatives to television watching; and (5) events at libraries and other appropriate venues to promote literacy prior to school entry and throughout elementary school.
The council shall prepare and submit an annual progress report concerning its activities, with appropriate recommendations regarding children’s language and literacy development, to the governor and the clerks of the senate and the house who shall forward the same to the chairs of the joint committee on education and the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before December 31.
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