(1) The General Court finds that:
(a) All students can succeed in school if they have the foundational skills necessary for academic success. While foundational skills go beyond academic skills to include such skills as social emotional competence, they must also include the ability to read, understand, interpret, and apply information;
(b) A lack of reading proficiency by fourth grade creates lifelong consequences, and the obstacles to that goal begin at birth. In order to succeed in school and in life, every child needs to receive proper vision and hearing screenings, among other services;
(c) Massachusetts has prioritized early learning through its investments in preschool and full-day kindergarten, and the General Court recognizes that these investments can best be leveraged by adopting policies that support a continuum of learning from birth through fifth grade and beyond;
(d) It is more cost-effective to invest in targeted early literacy education rather than to absorb costs for remediation in middle school, high school, and beyond;
(e) A comprehensive approach to early literacy education can improve student achievement, reduce the need for costly special education services, and produce a better educated, more skilled, and more competitive workforce;
(f) The purpose of this act is to promote the identification and assessment of early literacy deficiencies, to intervene to address those deficiencies, and to provide educator support;
(g) The act seeks to increase collaboration among community leaders to analyze the early literacy landscape in their school districts and to deliver early literacy support programs to community members in need;
(h) An important partnership between a parent and child begins before the child enters kindergarten, when the parent helps the child develop rich linguistic experiences, including listening comprehension and speaking, that help form the foundation for reading and writing, which are the main vehicles for content acquisition;
(i) The greatest impact for ensuring student success lies in a productive collaboration among parents, teachers, and schools in providing a child’s education, so it is paramount that parents are informed about the status of their children’s educational progress and that teachers and schools receive the financial resources and other resources and support they need, including valid assessments, instructional programming that is proven to be effective, and training and professional development programs, to effectively teach the science of reading, assess students’ achievement, and enable each student to achieve the grade level expectations for reading; and
(j) This act will assist local education providers in setting a solid foundation for students’ academic success and will require the ongoing commitment of financial and other resources from both the state and local levels.
SECTION 2. Chapter 69 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 1P the following section:-
Section 1Q. The department of elementary and secondary education, hereinafter referred to as the department, shall establish a grant program subject to appropriation to be known as the early literacy education grant program for the purpose of providing grants to assist school districts and Horace Mann and Commonwealth charter schools with the implementation and provision of early literacy education programs and services for students in kindergarten through grade five. To be eligible to receive a grant under this section, districts shall have approved chronic absenteeism, kindergarten screening, and early literacy improvement plans, which target early literacy development by way of assessment, intervention, and professional development for teachers, on file with the department. Such programs shall continue to make use of existing resources in school districts, educational collaboratives, and other agencies, service providers, and organizations. Districts must also have conducted an early literacy education needs assessment. The department shall recommend curricula and interventions, one or more of which each district shall adopt in order to be eligible to receive a grant under this section.
Funding shall be awarded to districts on a per-pupil basis at the kindergarten and elementary school levels, giving priority to districts with a higher number of economically disadvantaged, as defined by the department in conjunction with the department of early education and care. The department shall not issue any grant in an amount less than $50,000 per district per year.
Grants under this section may be used to acquire and implement early literacy resources, including, but not limited to: reading coaches; reading interventionists who must be trained in proven approaches for addressing learning disabilities, including dyslexia; school adjustment counselors; supplemental compensation to teachers to perform home visits and collaborative planning time with parents of students; literacy consultants; professional development for teachers, including basic literacy instruction; establishment of summer teacher and student academies; vision and hearing screenings; and early literacy education technology. The grants shall also encourage voluntary expansion of existing early literacy education programs in the Commonwealth, and shall be used to provide early literacy education programs for students who are at risk of educational failure due to reading deficiencies and truancy. Since research has shown that behavioral issues have a negative impact on a student’s ability to read, grants may also be used to assist in developing programs that provide a range of approaches to address behavioral issues, such as behavior specialists, in-school suspension rooms and crisis centers, in addition to out-of-school alternative settings.
Grant recipients shall develop remediation plans for students that address both academic and behavioral issues. Grants may also be made available for in-school regular education programs that include self-improvement, behavior management and life skills training to help provide students with tools to better manage their lives and attitudes, to support programs that use family-based approaches, and to assist students and teachers during the transition of students back into regular education classrooms.
A grant awarded pursuant to this subsection shall require that recipients undertake ongoing program evaluations that document the effectiveness of the program in helping students to achieve and maintain literacy skills. In awarding grants, priority shall be given to programs that employ interventions that have been empirically validated including the use of multiple assessments of progress throughout the school year.
The department shall establish guidelines governing the early literacy education grant program. The guidelines shall include, but not be limited to, a requirement that, as soon as possible after a student is identified as having need of a reading improvement plan, a representative of the school district shall meet with the student and the student’s parents or legal guardian to develop a reading improvement plan that specifies the responsibilities of the school, the student and the student’s parents or legal guardian. The plan shall, at a minimum, include:
(a) The student’s specific, diagnosed reading skill deficiencies that need to be remediated in order for the student to attain reading competency;
(b) The goals and benchmarks for the student’s growth in attaining reading competency;
(c) The type of additional instructional services and interventions the student will receive in reading;
(d) The scientifically based or evidence-based reading instructional programming the teacher will use to provide to the student daily reading approaches, strategies, interventions, and instruction, which programs at a minimum shall address the areas of phonemic awareness, phonics, alphabet and letter knowledge, grapheme-phoneme correspondence, word recognition fluency, invented spelling, vocabulary development, reading fluency, including oral skills, and reading comprehension.
(e) The manner in which the school will monitor and evaluate the student’s progress;
(f) The strategies the student’s parent is encouraged to use in assisting the student to achieve reading competency that are designed to supplement the programming described in paragraph (d) of this subsection; and
(g) Any additional services the teacher deems available and appropriate to accelerate the student’s reading skill development.
To ensure that the early literacy education grant program improves students’ progress toward increasing reading competency by fourth grade, the department shall:
(a) Monitor the performance of school districts that receive grants under this section, including students’ progress toward increasing reading competency by fourth grade;
(b) Intervene where necessary to ensure appropriate and effective use of grants apportioned under this section; and
(c) Facilitate continuous improvement of use of grants apportioned under this section by implementing strategies for school districts to share best practices for improving students’ progress toward increasing reading competency by fourth grade.
Not later than December 31, 2020, and every two years thereafter, the State Auditor shall conduct financial and program audits of the uses of the early literacy education grant program and the effectiveness of the program in achieving its stated purposes. The State Auditor shall submit the audit reports to the General Court and the Governor.
SECTION 3. Chapter 15D of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following section:-
Section 19. The department of early education and care, hereinafter referred to as the department, shall establish a grant program to be known as the early literacy service provider grant program for the purpose of providing grants to support early literacy initiatives for children ages zero through five. In order to be eligible to receive a grant under this section, districts must conduct an early literacy education needs assessment.
Funding shall be awarded to districts with one or more economically disadvantaged students, as defined by the department in conjunction with the department of elementary and secondary education. Regardless of the number of economically disadvantaged students in any district, no grant shall be issued in an amount less than $50,000 per district per year.
The superintendent of each district which receives a grant under this section shall assemble a local stakeholder group of not more than thirteen individuals for the purpose of structuring and administering a competitive grant program for redistribution of the grant funds to early literacy service providers who will serve children ages zero through five in that district. Eligible recipients of the competitive grant shall include grantees across the Commonwealth, which deliver family support programs and care-giver education.
The department shall establish guidelines governing the early literacy service provider grant program.
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