The bill repeals and reenacts the existing "Colorado Basic Literacy Act", renaming it the "Colorado Early Literacy Act". Each school district, charter school, and board of cooperative services (local education provider) that enrolls students in kindergarten or first, second, or third grade (early grades) must provide instructional programs and support in reading to ensure that, by the time a student finishes third grade, the student's reading skills are high enough to enable the student to master the standards and expectations for fourth grade and beyond.
The state board of education (state board) will promulgate rules that establish the grade-level reading competency skill level and the minimum reading competency skill level for each of the early grades. The department of education (department) will assemble, with input from local education providers, a resource bank of approved reading assessments that local education providers will use to measure students' reading skills and diagnose students' reading skill deficiencies. The resource bank will also contain recommended instructional programming in reading that meets specified criteria and recommended professional development programs. The department must have the resource bank available by July 1, 2013, and will continue to review assessments, instructional programming, and professional development programs and add appropriate items to the resource bank.
Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, each local education provider will begin assessing students in each of the early grades and diagnosing students' specific reading skill deficiencies. If a student's reading skills are below grade level but above the minimum reading competency skill level for the student's grade level, the student has a reading deficiency. If a student's reading skills are below the minimum reading competency skill level, the student has a significant reading deficiency.
If a student has a reading deficiency or a significant reading deficiency, the student's teacher will notify the student's parent and invite the parent to participate with the teacher in creating a reading to ensure academic development plan (READ plan) for the student. For students who have a significant reading deficiency, the notice will also specify that, if the student still has a significant reading deficiency at the end of the school year, state law recommends that the student not advance to the next grade level, and the teacher and parent and potentially other personnel of the local education provider will decide whether the student will advance. In addition to the written notice, the teacher will meet with, or make 3 documented attempts to meet with, the parent. The teacher willcreate the student's READ plan as soon as possible, with input from the parent unless the parent does not attend the meeting.
A student's READ plan must include a description of the student's specific reading skill deficiencies, a discussion of the likely consequences to the student of not achieving reading competency, the specific intervention instruction the teacher will use to help the student progress, and the specific strategies the parent is encouraged to use at home to help the student progress. The READ plan and documentation supporting the READ plan and the student's progress in implementing the plan will be included in the student's permanent academic record. The student's READ plan will include intervention instruction provided through the response to intervention framework. If the student is identified as having a disability, the local education provider will integrate into the student's individualized education program (IEP), as appropriate, the intervention instruction to address the student's reading issues. The state board may adopt rules to further clarify the use of READ plans for students with disabilities. The teacher will continue to implement and update the READ plan until the student achieves reading competency.
If, at the end of a school year, a student has a significant reading deficiency, the statute recommends that the student does not advance to the next grade level. The student's teacher will send the student's parent written notice that the teacher, the parent, and other personnel from the local education provider must meet to decide whether the student will advance. After sending the notice, the teacher will schedule, or make 3 documented attempts to schedule, the meeting. If the parent does not attend a meeting, the teacher and personnel from the local education provider will decide whether the student will advance.
If there is a meeting, the student's parent and teacher and personnel from the local education provider will decide, based on the student's body of evidence, whether the student will advance to the next grade level. The teacher and the other personnel will again explain the likely consequences to the student if he or she does not achieve reading competency. If the student is finishing third grade and the parent, teacher, and other personnel decide the student will advance to fourth grade even though the student has a significant reading deficiency, the decision is subject to approval by the superintendent of the school district, if the student is enrolled in a public school of a school district other than a charter school, or by the school principal, if the student is enrolled in a charter school or a school operated by a board of cooperative services. If the superintendent or principal does not approve the decision, the student will not advance to fourth grade. The local education provider will ensure that the parent and the superintendent or principal receive written notice of the decisions made concerning whether the student advances and that the written notice is included in the student's academic record. The local education provider will remove the notice from the student's academic record when the student achieves reading competency.
A student is not subject to a decision about whether to advance to the next grade level if the student enrolled in kindergarten before the 2013-14 school year; has an IEP and is eligible to take the alternative statewide assessment; is an English language learner, and the student's significant reading deficiency is due primarily to language; or has already been in the same grade for 2 years.
A student who does not advance to the next grade level must receive increased reading intervention instruction and supports to improve his or her reading competency during the year in which he or she does not advance.
Each local education provider will annually report to the department data that enables the department to determine whether students who receive READ plans achieve reading competency, how long it takes for them to do so, and whether prohibiting a student from advancing to the next grade level has a positive effect on the student's reading skill level. The department will report its analysis of the data to the state board, the governor, and the general assembly and will make it available on the department's web site.
The department will administer an early literacy grant program to provide money to applying local education providers to implement literacy support and intervention instruction programs to assist students in kindergarten and first through third grades to achieve reading competency. The grant program is funded through the early literacy fund, which consists of moneys previously appropriated to the read-to-achieve cash fund. The department is also directed to use a portion of the moneys in the fund to provide technical support to local education providers on a regional basis to assist them in implementing the early grade literacy requirements. The read-to-achieve fund and program are repealed.
Under current law, accreditation of school districts and public schools is based on 4 performance indicators. The data and processes for measuring attainment of those indicators are specified in statute. The bill adds 3 additional measures for 2 of the performance indicators to measure student success in achieving reading competency during the early grades.
The state board does not have authority to waive any of the provisions of the "Colorado Early Literacy Act" for a local education provider.