Thursday, December 08, 2022

State Board of Education member talks ‘reading science’ at Avon

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Colorado Board of Education member Joyce Rankin spoke to a small group at the Avon Public Library on Friday about the “science of reading” and the state’s efforts to implement those ideas.
ScottMiller / Well Daily

Educational trends come and go. The “science of reading” may linger for a while.

Colorado State Board of Education member Joyce Rankin was in Avon Friday to give a presentation about the ideas behind the science of reading to a small group at the Avon Public Library.

Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, represents the third congressional district, which this year includes a small part of Eagle County. He was invited to Avon by fellow Republican Matt Solomon, who is running for the Colorado Senate in District 8 this year.

Rankin, who has had a long career in early education, gave the group a quick look at the history of the ideas behind the science of reading, and an overview of what’s happening in elementary schools across the state.

Rankin noted that the science of reading is a research and evidence-based method to motivate young students to read at grade level or better.

The state started towards the idea with the 2012 Reading of Ensuring Educational Development Act.

Rankin noted that the bill funded school districts to set up their own programs, but without any accountability. A 2019 bill, co-sponsored by Rankin’s husband, Bob, a state senator, fixed that piece.

Under the law, every teacher teaching kindergarten through third grade must have at least 45 hours of instruction in the science of reading.

The Colorado Department of Education offers training for free, and Rankin said some school districts pay their teachers for the time they spend training.

Rankin notes that there is no single provider for the science of reading training. But, he said, the program called “LETRS” There is a “gold standard” in the field.

Teachers were required by August 1 to upload proof of completion of training. Bob Rankin, who attended the session, said that about 17,000 of the state’s nearly 20,000 low-grade teachers have complied with that requirement.

Joyce Rankin acknowledged that teaching children scientific reading methods can be difficult. This requires 90 minutes of training per day.

“You’re assessing all the time how (or not) each student is learning,” Rankin said. “It’s not easy, and it takes time, but the more you do it, the better you get at it.

The system may involve children reading to each other, and there are other, more fun, exercises.

“If it’s used, we’re going to see a lot of changes,” Rankin said.

He said one of the smaller districts in the state implemented a program soon after the Reed Act was passed. The reading scores of those students increased in every primary grade, including kindergarten.

Since the district has a stable student population, Rankin said state officials are using the program as an example of how the system works.

Audience member Addison Hobbs asked Rankin about students who speak languages ​​other than English.

Rankin replied that most of the science of reading is done in English. This means that the students “have to work very hard” to retain them.

Bob Rankin noted that the 2019 bill had support from almost every section of the state’s political spectrum.

Solomon said that the science of reading “is an example of how everything should work if we put our boxes aside … the rest of us can learn something here.”

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