Reading & Literacy

Reading Instruction: A Flurry of New State Laws

By Catherine Gewertz — February 20, 2020 3 min read
24 Reading Laws 600x292

Many states have recently enacted laws or rules designed to ensure that teachers are well versed in evidence-based reading instruction. Here are some highlights.

24 Reading Laws 600x100 A

> ALABAMA
(2019)
Requires districts to provide core curriculum, professional development, and coaching based on the science of reading. Requires “explicit and systematic instruction” in skills including oral-language development, phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Preservice teachers must pass a “foundational reading assessment.”

> ARIZONA
(2018)
Requires districts to provide ongoing training in evidence-based reading, and schools to conduct curriculum evaluations and adopt evidence-based reading curricula that include the essential components of reading. Spells out the “essential components” of reading instruction and specifies “explicit and systematic instruction” of those skills.

> ARKANSAS
(2017-2019)
Requires K-6 teachers to demonstrate proficiency in scientific reading instruction and all other teachers, and administrators, to demonstrate “awareness” of it. Requires preservice teachers to take a test in the science of reading for licensure.

> COLORADO
(2019)
Requires districts to provide curriculum and instruction in reading that is based on science and evidence and focused on phonemic awareness; phonics; vocabulary development; reading fluency, including oral skills; and reading comprehension. Requires districts that receive per-pupil funds for intervention or early-literacy grants to ensure that K-3 teachers complete evidence-based training in teaching reading.

> FLORIDA
(2019, proposed)
Would require that evidence-based reading strategies become part of the rules to establish uniform core curricula for state-approved teacher-preparation programs.

24 Reading Laws 600x100 B

> KENTUCKY
(2019)
Requires teacher-preparation programs in elementary education to provide reading instruction on phonetic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Requires new elementary teachers to pass an approved reading-instruction test.

> MISSOURI
(2018)
Requires K-3 teacher-candidates to complete at least six semester hours of reading instruction on the “explicit and systematic” teaching of language acquisition, phonemic and phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

> NORTH CAROLINA
(2017)
Requires that teacher-prep courses impart a “substantive understanding of reading as a process involving oral language, phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.” For licensure, K-6 teachers must pass a test on “scientifically-based” reading instruction.

> OKLAHOMA
(2019)
Requires that teacher candidates study phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, and strategies including “explicitly taught, sequenced” instruction in reading.

24 Reading Laws 600x100 C

> RHODE ISLAND
(2019)
Requires teachers seeking elementary licensure to show proficiency in the best practices of scientific reading instruction, and those seeking licensure for other grade levels must show an “awareness” of those practices. Requires districts to provide professional development in science-based reading instruction, and current elementary teachers to demonstrate proficiency in scientific reading instruction and may choose from several pathways to meet that requirement.

> TENNESSEE
(2020, proposed)
Would require districts to provide K-2 literacy instruction that includes systematic, evidence-based instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, fluency, oral reading, and reading comprehension. K-3 teachers would have to take two weeks of professional development in evidence-based reading instruction and demonstrate mastery. Teacher- and principal-preparation programs would have to teach evidence-based reading, and candidates would have to pass a test on it.

> TEXAS
(2019)
Requires K-6 teacher-candidates to take a certification exam to demonstrate proficiency in the science of teaching reading. Requires all K-3 teachers and principals to complete “reading academies,” and districts to provide a phonics curriculum in K-3 that uses “systematic direct instruction.”

> WEST VIRGINIA
(2019)
Requires elementary teacher-candidates to take nine credit hours of reading instruction that focuses on five essential components of reading.

Sources: Education Week, Education Commission of the States, National Conference of State Legislatures
A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2020 edition of Education Week as States Exerting New Control Over Reading

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