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HR 650: Evidence Based Literacy Study Committee

A year ago, Sci4Ga’s intern, Paige, wanted to make sure all kids could read. And that launched a search for evidence-based best-practices and inflection points. The connections we made and things we learned led us to host an Education and Workforce speaker series, attended by education experts, business leaders, and policymakers, including Lt Gov. Duncan. That was followed by a roundtable that Rep Gambill and Rep Evans attended. At that roundtable, 20+ people agreed “we need to focus on getting kids literate – which means we need to focus on evidence-based literacy instruction, and we need to look all along the pipeline from birth to death.”

There are several steps to building a community-based literacy pipeline – and step 1 is understand what is already going on.

Children move from being read to, to learning to read, to reading to learn, to upskilling, to helping others to learn to read.

In that spirit, we are pleased that Rep Gambill, Rep Evans, Rep Greene, Rep Mathiak, and Rep Paris introduced and sponsored HR 650 which would establish a study committee on literacy instruction.

This resolution is the result of hard work and input from many different individuals and organizations.

HR 650 Passed!

On Mar 18 2022 – HR 650 passed the Georgia House 130-0. Sci4Ga got some seriously marvelous shout-outs in the day 31 floor speeches (starts at 45:25).

Watch the testimony about it – on Feb 16, Amy Sharma, spoke before the House Education Committee (remarks begin around 31:15)

Now on to the committee this summer!

What is the Literacy Status of Georgia 4th Graders?
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), two thirds of Georgia 4th graders are below proficient reading levels.

Low Literacy / At Grade Level (basic)– Understand the words, answer simple questions, read through material in a certain amount of time.
Literate / Proficient – Make Reasonable Inferences from the material.
Why do we need a literate workforce?
The pace of automation and the switch to high-tech jobs is accelerating. 60% of jobs are STEM related, and 60% of those job holders do not need a bachelor’s degree. Georgia needs a literate workforce that can up-skill, re-skill, and grow the skilled workforce as the economy changes.
What is being done?
There are many programs and people working at all parts of the literacy pipeline. DFACS, DOE, TCSG, USG, Deal Center, Libraries, GA Family Connection Partnership, Cox Campus, Reach Out and Read, Decoding for Dyslexia, Literacy for All, Learn for Life, Share the Magic, Voices for Georgia Children, GEEARS, Leap Year, etc. They are vital parts of an ecosystem where reading is a life-long, multi-generational, effort. We must address the entire ecosystem.
What is Evidence Based Literacy Instruction?
There is also 50+ years of evidence-based literacy instruction practices that show if done right, the first time, a large majority of children will not need expensive, time-consuming, interventions. When evidence-based approaches are used, essentially every-child, except those with severe cognitive difficulties, can become a fluent reader. Every child can become fully literate.

As people learn to read, they are building mental muscle that enables them to read words and sentences with speed, accuracy, and comprehension. Evidence-based literacy instruction utilizes the “muscle building” techniques: building from letter sounds, to combination sounds, to whole words, to entire sentences. At the same time, it builds a library of defined words. Thus, evidence-based literacy instruction spends time on both sounding out words and understanding the words (this is termed the simple view of reading). By the end of third-grade, when given a block of text, proficient readers have the mental muscle to easily read the words and know what those words mean; therefore, they can comprehend the block of text to learn.
What are the HR 650 Committee Goals?
1. Define evidence-based literacy instruction.
2. Understand impact of low-literacy on Georgia’s workforce competitiveness.
3. Identify all the programs that exist along the pipeline and understand how they can work together.
4. Examine how changes can be made to education standards to support evidence-based instruction and enable adaption as new science emerges.
5. Determine how Georgia can best support and expand local ecosystems to maximize potential and while enabling local flexibility.
6. Recommend actions and legislation as needed.

NOTES: On 3/28/2022 this article was updated to include the vote on HR 650 and remove the links to write your legislator about it.

Updated on March 28, 2022

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