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Connecticut Leading the Way on Literacy and School Vaccination

Right to Read Implementation: Full Steam Ahead

Public Opinion Polling and Impact Research released a poll yesterday regarding parent perspectives on reading nationally. Education Week explains that about half of parents said their children have struggled to read at some point, and 46% felt that reading instruction had declined in recent generations. When presented with data showing that only 32% of 4th graders meet proficiency standards on the National Assessment for Educational Progress—37% of parents said there was a reading "crisis."

For proponents of Connecticut’s Right to Read efforts, it’s been a very busy week. On Monday, Senator Pat Billie Miller was invited by the Pennsylvania House Education Committee to present about Connecticut’s enactment of this landmark legislation and the process of implementing it. You can watch that hearing here.

She explained that—up until Right to Read's 2021 passage—the science of reading was being shared across Connecticut in only a piecemeal fashion. "We created a hub, we created a Center for all of the literacy work,” she described. “We have a director who just hired her own team, and they have approved seven curriculum programs that districts have to use.” PA Rep. Jason Ortitay (R) assured Senator Miller that they would be amending their early literacy legislation to have a similarly comprehensive strategy for state leadership.

There’s a reason why Connecticut’s Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success is a model for other states. Its centralized leadership at the State Department of Ed allows for thorough and consistent implementation, and it has been funded by both legislative appropriation and ARPA dollars. In a presentation to the Reading Leadership Implementation Council yesterday, Center Director Melissa Hickey reported on the status of the department’s efforts, including:

Dr. Hickey also presented on the status of district waivers from the state’s early literacy curricular requirements. The Center partnered with PCG to develop and conduct a formal process for reviewing each waiver application. Afterwards, the Center conducted four informational webinars and had one-on-one meetings with individual districts that had requested waivers. The 83 districts awaiting waiver decisions will hear back from the state by December 1, 2023. If their proposed plans do not fulfill the requirements outlined in the law, these districts will be required to adopt a state-approved program by 2025.

CT Leads on School Vaccines

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report exploring vaccination coverage among kindergarteners across the U.S. According to Hugh McQuaid's coverage in CT News Junkie, "exemption rates to childhood vaccination requirements for preventable diseases like measles increased in 40 states, pushing the national exemption rate to 3%—an all-time high—during the 2022-2023 school year." However, the rate of exemptions in Connecticut declined by 1.5% to just 0.8%, bucking the nationwide trend.

The article attributes this welcome news to a bill passed in 2021, which removed religious exemptions to school vaccination requirements. Our affiliate, ERN CT, was a leading advocate in seeing that law’s passage—arguing, in the wake of an inter-state measles outbreak in 2019, that all families have a right to safe and healthy classrooms free of preventable disease. We are so proud that the CDC’s numbers confirm our state made the right choice for students.

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