Bill heading to Pritzker’s desk requires  Illinois State Board of Education to create new literacy plan

Row of children’s books
Photo: Robyn Budlender/Unsplash

(The Center Square) – Lawmakers in Springfield have approved a measure requiring the Illinois State Board of Education to create a literacy plan for public school students that changes how reading is taught and helps increase the number of students who come to master it.

With Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford as the lead sponsor, Senate Bill 2243 passed by a 56-0 vote, paving the way for the bill to now advance to the desk of Gov. JB Pritzker.

“Every child deserves the instruction and support that meets their needs to become a proficient reader,” Lightford said in a news release. “This initiative moves Illinois off the sidelines and into the action to fight for every student to have access to the literacy instruction they deserve.”

In 2022, only three out of every 10 students in the state between the third and eighth grade were found to be at or exceeding state standards in reading as measured by the Illinois Assessment of Readiness exam. With research showing that students who aren’t proficient in reading by third grade more likely to become drop-outs, the most recent numbers represent a 7.5% drop from just three years earlier in 2019.

SB 2243 further stipulates that the state board develop and adopt a comprehensive literacy plan by Jan. 31, 2024, and create a rubric by July 1, 2024. The bill also requires the state to develop training opportunities for educators by Jan. 1, 2025.

Going forward, elementary school teachers for grades first through sixth will also be tested on their knowledge of literacy on a content-area exam they are required to take before securing a license.

State officials said a team of educators, administrators, parents, community organizations and experts in literacy, special education, and bilingual education are all now working on the draft of a literacy plan.

Illinois joins at least 19 other states that have started to rethink how reading is taught in schools over the past four years, with Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and New Mexico having all passed laws this year that require schools to teach evidence-based reading instruction, ensure that teacher preparation programs are training students on the science of reading and require the state to create standards for literacy and create a rubric to vet curriculum.

Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is a contributor for The Center Square.

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