March 21, 2024

Act 20 Update: Living With the New Reading Law and Fighting For Changes

Act 20 Update: Living With the New Reading Law and Fighting For Changes Featured Image

The state has passed a new early literacy law, Act 20, and the Legislature has acted on several related measures.

WEAC successfully advocated to remove a provision that would have forced retention of third graders based on a standardized test scores before the measure became law, and now WEAC is working to help teachers and education support professionals understand the new law and requirements, making sure we get the training to do our jobs and above all, making sure no student is left behind in the fast-tracked implementation of the  law.

Wherever you stand on the new law, WEAC has called out lawmakers for implementing a new literacy law without input from the professionals who work face-to-face with students every day. “The bottom line is politicians have inserted themselves into what can be taught in our schools and how educators can do our jobs, and that is always alarming,” said WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, an English and art teacher.  “Educators who work with students every day should have been consulted and part of the development.”

2024-2025 Recommended Early Literacy Curricula

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has approved a list of four state-recommended instructional materials, adopting the all four recommendations of the politically appointed Early Literacy Curriculum Council, not the list of recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The approved materials are:

  • Bookworms Reading and Writing K-3 (Open Up Resources, 2022)
  • Core Knowledge Language Arts K-3 (CKLA, Amplify Education, 2022)
  • EL Education K-3 Language Arts (Open Up Resources, 2017)
  • Wit and Wisdom (Great Minds, 2020) with Geodes and PK-3 Reading Curriculum (Really Great Reading)

Districts can use any curriculum they want as long as it complies with the law and does not use three-cueing. DPI has a tool to determine whether materials meet the law.

Districts that use one of the state packages can apply for grants for partial reimbursement. The state allocated $50 million in the recently passed state budget for the new literacy law implementation, so after literacy coaches are funded and other expenses are covered, grant reimbursements may be available to districts. Some districts, especially ones that were already in a curriculum selection process, have said they will adopt state-supported curriculum. Others with literacy curriculum that meets the new law have indicated they didn’t see the value in switching for a questionable reimbursement.

Reading Training and Readiness Screening

Currently, the Governor has before him waiting for signatures two amendments to Act 20. The first allows specific CESA training between 2021 and 2024 to meet the law’s training requirement. After that, K-3 educators must begin a state-approved reading training by July 1, 2025.

The second change delays the screener in 2024-2025 until second semester. Requirements connected to the screener – the diagnostic reading assessment and personal reading plan – would not be required until after the mid-year screening of 5K through grade 3 learners.