State Rep. Kimberly N. Ferguson (R-Holden) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week in passing legislation aimed at having all students in the Commonwealth reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
The legislation, passed on Wednesday, July 11, will create an Early Literacy Expert Panel, chaired by the Secretary of Education and an outside expert on children’s early language and literacy development. The panel will help streamline different initiatives and create a cohesive system to help close the achievement gap by third grade for all Massachusetts students.
“I was proud to support this legislation," said Ferguson, the ranking Republican on the Joint Committee on Education. "I feel that the Early Literacy Expert Panel will keep the State focused on improving literacy and will ensure that reading proficiency is a top priority. As a lifelong educator, I certainly know the value and importance of reading skills and the need to prepare out students adequately. This has to be a top priority, and this legislation is a good start.”
According to the 2011 MCAS scores, 39 percent of Massachusetts’ third graders do not read at grade level.
The legislation passed by the House of Representatives last Wednesday seeks to strengthen the implementation of literacy programs in public schools across the state by requiring the expert panel to advise the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education on aligning and coordinating current initiatives.
“I congratulate Madame Chair Peisch and the Joint Committee on Education for working on this legislation,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “As we look to build a strong future for our Commonwealth, it remains so important that we maintain a focus on education, as the students of today are the innovators and leaders of tomorrow.”
The Early Literacy Expert Panel is expected to make recommendations on things such as comprehensive curricula changes, effective teaching practices to promote children’s language and literacy development, family engagement strategies and professional development and training for educators on language and literacy development.
In addition to these recommendations, the panel must also advise the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Department of Higher Education on utilizing new and existing federal grant funds, as well as private funds, to support language and literacy development.