‘Right to Read CT’ Campaign Aims to Improve State’s Literacy Struggles
Connecticut Students Facing Unprecedented Academic Challenges Due to Pandemic
Jan. 28, 2021 — Today Education Reform Now CT (ERN CT), along with a coalition of advocate partners and state legislators, launched the Right to Read CT campaign, which aims to pass legislation this year that will improve literacy among Connecticut students. To kick off the campaign, the coalition will host a virtual forum, “A Literacy Initiative for Equity,” at 5pm today to hear from state leaders and national experts about how to make progress on this critical topic.
Reading is the foundational skill of education, and yet only about half—53%—of Connecticut 3rd graders have met or exceeded expectations on the state assessment in English Language Arts since 2014. At a time when students across the state are managing an unprecedented school year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the existing inequities in our education system have been magnified, and especially at risk are basic skills such as literacy.
In response, the Right to Read CT initiative calls for a systemic approach, informed by the Science of Reading, to improve literacy instruction and better prepare Connecticut educators and students. The proposed legislation will set students up for success when they return to the classroom, using research-based literacy instruction in every school, for every child. The Right to Read CT coalition currently includes the following founding partners: the state Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity; ERN CT; HILL for Literacy; Literacy How; and Ready CT.
State Representative and Assistant Majority Leader Patricia Billie Miller, who will participate in today’s forum, has introduced the legislation being supported by the coalition. “Literacy is not only a fundamental part of a child’s development; it is key to unlocking their long-term growth and success as a person,” said Representative Miller. “This year, we have the opportunity to build on what works by focusing on science and proven practices, so that together we can ensure every child has a chance to learn, to read, and to succeed.”
“The ability to read is a foundational skill essential to educational success as a youth and to economic success as an adult,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, who will also participate in the forum. “Far too many residents of CT struggle with literacy, and within our state there are large gaps in reading attainment by race and income. These gaps impact us all, regardless of zip code, and addressing them must be a priority for all. We must do better, and we will begin our efforts with legislation that will give every student and educator the tools they need to succeed.”
Specifically, the Right to Read CT initiative would:
Identify and approve reading curricula models and programs that are based on the Science of Reading.
Establish a Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success to provide aligned professional development, improve teacher preparation, and expand effective literacy interventions.
Fund implementation and professional development.
Apply for federal grant dollars to support CT’s early literacy initiatives.
“Struggles with reading can set students back for a lifetime. If Connecticut does not lead on this issue, all the well intentioned plans for workforce development and college readiness will be in vain,” said Amy Dowell, ERN CT State Director. “We owe it to students in every community to commit to changing the trajectory of their education by following the science, prioritizing what works, and what is best for children. This last year was both an incredible challenge and a significant opportunity to act, and fortunately, we know how to act, and with impact.”
"Literacy is absolutely everything, and the attention being brought to this issue through comprehensive legislation and the upcoming Right to Read CT forum series is essential," said Shannon Marimón, Executive Director at ReadyCT. "If we think about all we need public education to do—inclusive of preparing students for the world of work—students must be able to read. There is just no more foundational issue in public education than ensuring all students have access to high-quality literacy instruction. Absolutely everyone is a stakeholder in this issue, and we're encouraged to see lawmakers and other constituencies come together at this time."
Today’s forum will be moderated by Steven Hernández, Executive Director for the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity, and will feature panelists Shavar Jeffries, National President of Education Reform Now; Representative Brandon McGee; Representative Patricia Billie Miller; and Representative Jason Rojas. Panelists will discuss how we can significantly improve literacy instruction in Connecticut.
The forum follows the release of ERN CT’s report, “Steady Habits, Stagnant Results: CT Solutions for Equity & Excellence in Literacy.” The report highlights the extent of Connecticut’s literacy problems, especially the fact that literacy scores amongst students aren’t improving.
More information on the Right to Read CT initiative can be found here: https://www.righttoreadct.org.
About ERN CT:
The state chapter of a national organization, Education Reform Now CT is a 501(c)(3) that operates as a think tank and policy advocate, promoting great educational opportunities and achievement for all by increasing equity, protecting civil rights, and strengthening the social safety net.