Muoio, Gusciora & Caputo Bill to Enhance Reading Instruction for K-3 Students Approved by Assembly Panel

Bill would create pilot program to provide supplemental reading instruction to districts in need

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Reed Gusciora and Ralph Caputo to create a pilot program to provide supplemental reading instruction to students enrolled in grades K-3 in select districts.

The bill (A-3521) is the culmination of a year-long collaboration with a Trenton literacy advocacy group formed by the Trenton branch of the NAACP. The sponsors also received input while drafting the bill from the NJEA and the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association.

“The goal of the pilot program is to improve students’ literacy skills by providing an after school program that uses a combination of targeted software and traditional learning methods,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This is a significant disadvantage that could derail students, if left unattended. This is an investment in the academic success and future of our children.”

“A strong foundation in literacy is required for continued learning in all subjects,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “It is imperative that immediate and decisive action be taken to improve early childhood literacy rates in school districts that are lagging behind.”

“Reading is a fundamental skill,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “We know these districts are struggling. You have many parents who want to help their children, but cannot afford private tutoring. This would provide the additional instruction needed to get students caught up.”

The bill (A-3521) would direct the Commissioner of Education to establish the three-year public school district pilot program. A school district that wants to participate in the pilot program may submit an application to the commissioner in accordance with the bill’s provisions. The commissioner would then select up to 12 school districts for participation in the program.

The commissioner must select districts where more than 75 percent of third-graders did not meet expectations on the most recent state assessment in English Language Arts/Literacy, and that are spending below adequacy as determined pursuant to section 5 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-47).

Under the bill, the commissioner must identify and distribute to all pilot districts a list of supplemental reading instruction software programs that have been approved for use in the after school program. Programs selected must meet the criteria set forth in the bill’s provisions.

Under the bill, each pilot district must provide an after school learning program to students enrolled in grades K-3 at no cost to the students. The district must use one or more of the software programs approved by the commissioner. The pilot district must ensure that:

· the after school portion of the school day aligns with the students’ ongoing curriculum;

· each classroom has no more than 30 students;

· each classroom includes at least one appropriately certified teacher and one classroom aide; and

· each student is able to use the software program for the minimum minutes each day as recommended by the software provider with the remainder of the day being used for direct traditional instruction by the teacher.

Each pilot district must report to the commissioner at the mid-point and at the end of each program year, and at such other times as the commissioner may direct, on student usage and outcomes as set forth in the bill’s provisions.

Each pilot district would be eligible to receive state support, as needed and determined by the commissioner, to implement the pilot program. State support may be provided for costs associated with: the purchase of approved software programs; the employment of after school program staff; the training of program staff in the use of the software; and any technology upgrades that may be necessary for the implementation of the program.

The commissioner would have to conduct regular site visits to monitor the programs and to annually review the pilot districts’ progress in implementing the after school program.

The commissioner would also have to compare the number and percentage of students who did not meet expectations in grade 3 on the most recent administration of the state assessment in English Language Arts/Literacy from the scores of the previous year.

The commissioner would have to submit a report that evaluates the effectiveness of the pilot program in increasing student achievement in language arts to the governor and the Legislature no later than June 30 of the third school year following the establishment of the program. The report would have to include a recommendation on the advisability of the program’s continuation and extension to additional school districts.

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.