The Alabama Literacy Act, passed in 2019, has been one of the more controversial issues thus far during the 2022 legislative session.
Under consideration are delays to the so-called retention portion of the law, which requires a third grader to read at a third-grade level before being promoted to the fourth grade.
Some lawmakers, including State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), would like to see that part of the law delayed for two years. Others, including Gov. Kay Ivey and House Education Policy Committee chairwoman State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), would prefer a one-year delay.
During an appearance on Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal" earlier this week, State Education Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey argued against the focus on the retention component of the law.
According to Mackey, Alabama has been on a positive trajectory with the implementation of the Literacy Act and urged against the attention on the retention element.
"[I]t is a Literacy Act, and even when we were first talking about this going through the legislature, some people were referring to it as the retention bill or the hold-back bill," he said. "I said, 'Please don't do that. It is a literacy bill.' The retention, the holdback is a tiny piece. It's just one little piece in the whole Literacy Act.
"So, a lot of good things are going on with literacy right now, even in the midst of COVID. Last year we tested our students. At the end, we had 95% of students to take the test and we know that of those third graders, about 23% of them tested below grade level in reading. Pretty similar to when Mississippi first started their literacy process. They were at 26%. We're actually a little bit ahead of that curve.
"I feel good about the trajectory where we are going. We've got about 12,000 teachers that are doing high-quality professional development we call 'letters.' They're either in it -- many of them, thousands of them finished it and we're paying a thousand-dollar bonus to them out of the [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] funds. And we have others that are moving through. So, about 12,000 now -- that's the vast majority of our kindergarten through third-grade teachers completing 'letters' training."
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