August 17, 2023

What Can Families Expect to See from the READ Act?

By Madie Spartz

You’ve probably heard a lot about the READ Act: the $75 million investment in literacy that lawmakers say will change the way Minnesota teaches reading and improve our lackluster reading scores. But what’s really in the bill, and what does it actually mean for Minnesota kids and families? Read on to find out.

What will the READ Act actually do?

A lot, as it turns out! The READ Act starts with the goal of every child in Minnesota reading at or above grade level every year, beginning in kindergarten. 

Here’s how it proposes we get there:

  • Requiring Evidence-Based Instruction: Districts and charter schools must provide “evidence-based” reading instruction based on five principles of literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, oral language, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Any new curriculum purchased must meet these requirements.
  • Teacher Training: Districts must provide teachers and staff—starting with K-3 teachers and interventionists—with training on evidence-based reading instruction, which must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Education. Each district will also be required to hire a literacy lead.
  • Regular K-3 Screenings: All students in kindergarten through third grade will be screened twice a year for both reading mastery and dyslexia – once at the beginning and again at the end.
  • Monitoring Students Who are Behind: Students in grade 4 and up who are not proficient in reading will continue to be screened for dyslexia and monitored until they are at grade-level.
  • Targeted Interventions: All students not reading at grade level by the end of the school year will receive intervention services, including but not limited to: summer school, intensified instruction during the school day, and extended day. These interventions must be taught by a teacher who has completed training in evidence-based instruction. (It’s worth noting that the law “encourages” but doesn’t require these students to have a personal learning plan.)
  • Annual Local Literacy Plans: School districts are required to publish annual local literacy plans, including information on: how many students are (and are not) proficient in reading, the number of students with dyslexia, what interventions are planned for students requiring them, the number of staff who have completed training, the reading curriculum they use, and the process for notifying and involving parents in reading intervention.

The law also includes a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) at the University of Minnesota to help implement the policy statewide. They will work together to identify curricula that meet the new standards, create professional development for teachers and staff, identify evidence-based reading interventions, and more.

Another key provision is that teacher preparation providers must add instruction on evidence-based literacy practices. This will help ensure aspiring teachers are prepared to teach reading effectively.

When can schools, students, and families expect to see changes?

While the wheels of the policy are already moving, it will take a few years for folks on the ground to feel the changes. The READ Act gives districts and schools a few years to train all their staff and implement new curriculum. For example, districts have until the 2026-27 school year until they are required to provide “evidence-based” instruction. While some schools and districts may shift their instructional practices sooner, others may not notice a change in their child’s reading instruction until the fall of 2026. 

Some pieces of the legislation are already underway, even though it may not be apparent to the public. CAREI and MDE have already started to identify appropriate curricula & universal screeners, develop the training that teachers and staff will receive, and select evidence-based interventions for struggling readers. Districts and families can expect to see the list of approved curricula by January 1st, 2024 on the Department of Education website. Approved professional development programs were just posted on August 15th—you can view them here.

The soonest change that the public can expect to see are districts’ local literacy plans, which they are required to publish every year starting in June of 2024. That means that starting next summer, all Minnesota families will have access to information on how their district will implement all of these sweeping changes to literacy instruction and support.

How much does all this cost?

The legislature appropriated nearly $75 million to implement the READ Act: 

  • $35 million is dedicated to districts for purchasing new curriculum and materials that align with the new standards. 
  • $34.95 million will go towards professional development costs for teachers and staff. 
  • CAREI is receiving $4.2 million for their services, including reviewing materials and developing trainings. 
  • Finally, MDE will get $500,000 over two years, where they will be required to add a full-time statewide literacy lead.

All of these funds are available until June 30, 2028, presumably to ensure that both the state and districts have ample time to select new curricula & materials, ensure their staff are well-trained, and implement such a big change with fidelity. 

Going Forward

To recap: these are huge changes that will take time to implement at all levels. The state needs to ensure it’s selecting high-quality materials and providing robust systems of support for districts. Districts must ensure they are training their staff successfully and consistently, rather than a “one and done” approach to professional development. Many individual instructors will have to relearn and replace practices they may have relied on for years, and that they may have originally learned in teacher preparation. It will take time to evaluate the success of the READ Act, and there are several active coalitions working to monitor and support implementation, while also identifying next steps. In the meantime, parents and educators can play a key role by engaging with leaders within their own schools and districts to understand local needs, opportunities, and progress.

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