Policy News: Arizona Invests in Accelerating Early Literacy

July 12, 2021


Read On Arizona applauds Governor Ducey and the Arizona legislature for prioritizing early literacy in the FY22 budget and legislation passed this month. SB1572 outlines significant steps for advancing early literacy in our state and was signed into law by Governor Ducey.

This legislation reflects key aspects of Read On Arizona’s broader policy framework, which was modeled after Mississippi’s success in accelerating early literacy outcomes for students.

In June 2020, in an effort to understand potential scalable solutions to the impact of COVID-19 on early literacy, Read On Arizona led a work group made up of representatives from the Governor’s Office, AZ Dept. of Education, AZ State Board of Education, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Helios Education Foundation, First Things First, key legislative staff and education stakeholders through a three-day AZ-MS Literacy Leadership Learning Exchange.

As a result of the convening, Read On Arizona partners adopted an early literacy policy framework informed by the evidence-based, proven strategies that were key drivers of Mississippi’s impressive growth on the NAEP reading assessment and reflective of a targeted approach focused on high-need schools serving the most struggling readers.

Read On Arizona’s Early Literacy Policy Framework called for:

  • Building educator capacity in the science of reading and strengthening new teacher preparation programs.
  • Literacy coaching and high-quality professional development for high need schools.
  • Investing in high-quality early learning opportunities for preschool age children in high-need areas and a standardized state kindergarten entry evaluation to help identify what supports are needed as they enter school to help our youngest learners reach their reading potential.

Funding for Early Literacy

Governor Ducey earmarked $6.9M of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) discretionary funding to support:

  • $3.1 M for literacy coaches in high need schools
  • $1.5M for a state Kindergarten entry evaluation tool
  • $1.3M for dyslexia training
  • $1.0 M for Educator Reading exam support

The Department of Economic Security Childcare Administration supported the early literacy policy framework by prioritizing early literacy in their budget request of $95.7M for use of federal relief (CCDF) dollars:

  • $47.2M for accelerating early literacy by building ECE educator capacity in the science of reading
  • $45M to expand and strengthen access to quality early learning opportunities
  • $2.0M to expand access to early literacy resources to young children 0-5
  • $1.5M for ECE data integration and financing planning to help inform data-driven solutions

What this means to the field

  • Funding will support 25 regional literacy coaches to provide ongoing, evidence-based technical assistance in effective reading instruction at the lowest-performing schools with the highest number of minimally proficient students K-3 across the state.
  • Policy changes are focused on accelerating early literacy outcomes by building educator capacity (pre-service and in-service) in the science of reading and requires a literacy endorsement for K-5 educators. It creates an entry evaluation for kindergarten students to better understand supports and services needed as they enter the K-3 pipeline, and it outlines parental notification requirements for students with reading deficiencies.

What this means for Arizona children

  • Equitable access to teachers trained in the science of reading to deliver highly effective reading instruction for all students.
  • A state universal Kindergarten entry assessment will identify strengths of K students as they enter school and identify areas of support needed to keep them on track to reach a critical milestone of reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
  • With more equitable access to high quality early learning and literacy opportunities, we can focus on helping our youngest learners make the literacy leaps the are capable of, especially those students in high need communities who have been impacted by unfinished learning.

A special thank you to Senators Boyer and Shope for their leadership and continued commitment to strengthening early literacy policies for AZ children. And thank you to all the Read On Arizona partners that participated in the AZ-MS Literacy Leadership Learning Exchange, and the stakeholders that put early literacy first and supported getting these critical items across the finish line!