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Collins moves to delay Literacy Act holdback requirement

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Third graders who aren’t reading on grade level won’t be held back at the end of this year because of the Alabama Literacy Act if a bill by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is approved.

Collins’ House Bill 220 delays the retention portion of the 2019 Literacy Act one year.

Collins sponsored the 2019 law aimed at improving young students’ reading abilities. It includes requirements for enhanced teacher training, student screenings and additional help for struggling readers, including summer programs. But the accountability portion of the law requires students to read proficiently before being promoted to fourth grade.

The delay is supported by Gov. Kay Ivey and several state education committees.

Collins said she believes the delay is needed because when the act was originally passed, it was assumed there would be three years of testing data on which to make decisions about proficiency markers. In 2020, because of the pandemic, that testing didn’t happen and another year of testing is needed. 

Still, Collins told Alabama Daily News that parents of current third graders who aren’t proficient in reading should talk to their school about repeating the grade.

“The parents really need to think about and talk with teachers about what is best for that child,” Collins said. “Because even in the fourth grade, that child will be expected to read.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and learning loss it caused for some students, some have argued holding back students this year would be unfair. In the Senate, Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, has a bill to delay holdback until the 2025-2026 school year. Ivey vetoed Smitherman’s bill last year to delay the holdback until 2024. 

In November, Ivey, who is by her position the president of the state school board, recommended a one-year delay.

“Because we are implementing a new assessment, we need the spring 2022 data to further validate the cut score before we implement the promotion policy and in the meantime we will be doubling down for the supports needed to implement the Alabama Literacy Act to fidelity,” Ivey said then.

Last year, the Public Affairs Research Council According to a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama analysis of recent testing scores, about 12,000 students could potentially be held back next spring because they can’t read at grade level.

Collins said the more time educators and administrators have with the new law, the fewer students will need to be held back. She said that was the experience in Mississippi, whose law Alabama emulated.

“They literally had fewer third graders held back because they had been preparing them all along the way,” she said.

Collins bill also makes some technical changes to the act. It has about 30 GOP co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Education Policy Committee, which Collins chairs.



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