July 9, 2015 — According to an evaluation study commissioned by Colorado Succeeds, there is solid evidence showing the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act is helping thousands of students improve their literacy skills after just one full year of implementation. The report highlights impressive results in a wide variety of schools that serve nearly every different type of student population and geography, and gives teachers and school leaders a playbook to replicate their success.

Early literacy is one of the strongest predictors of a student’s likelihood to succeed in school and in life. The READ Act is an innovative policy that seeks to ensure that Colorado’s students have the basic literacy skills they need to succeed, and the study provides some encouraging results after only one year of implementation:

  • The majority of Colorado schools have reduced the number of students with a significant reading deficiency (SRD). Many schools have seen dramatic reductions in the overall number of students with an SRD and shrinking achievement gaps among students from various subgroups.
  • Statewide, the number of students with an SRD was reduced from 16% in 2013 to 14% in 2014, resulting in nearly 5,000 fewer students who lack the basic reading skills they need to succeed.
  • The percentage of English language learners statewide with an SRD fell from 35% to 27%. The percentage of SRDs among African American, Latino, and low-income students decreased as well.

“We have Colorado’s educators to thank for the early literacy gains shown in this evaluation study, as these successes are largely due to teachers’ tireless efforts both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Scott Laband, President, Colorado Succeeds. “The READ Act was a wise investment in our students and a necessary step toward ensuring an excellent education for all of Colorado’s kids. It’s also a testament to what can be achieved when policymakers and educators take bold actions to improve our schools.

Governor Hickenlooper signed the Colorado READ Act into law in May 2012, with the primary goal that all students become competent readers and are ready to achieve the state’s academic standards and expectations by the time they leave third grade. The READ Act requires that all kindergarten through third-grade students be assessed early in the school year to identify potential reading deficiencies. For every student identified, the local education provider must create a READ Plan that describes the nature of the student’s reading deficiency and specific actions that the school staff members and parents will take. The READ Act also requires teachers, school administrators, and parents to meet each year to discuss retaining students who, up until the fourth grade, have an SRD.

The purpose of the evaluation study was to determine if the READ Act successfully reduced the number of students with an SRD after its first full year, highlight and share best practices from educators serving in a wide variety of schools across the state, and make recommendations about possible changes or revisions to the READ Act. After thorough examination of READ Act student assessment data, school and district surveys, and several in-person site visits, the study shows a significant reduction in the number of students with an SRD across nearly every subgroup of students.

Colorado Succeeds acknowledges the leadership of Governor Hickenlooper, Lieutenant Governor Garcia, and the Colorado Department of Education who have focused state educators on the importance of early literacy. Colorado Succeeds is also grateful for the generous support of the Denver Foundation, Mile High United Way, Piton Foundation, Temple Buell Foundation, and Rose Community Foundation, which made the report possible, and to its partners, A Plus Denver, Catapult, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Democrats for Education Reform, the Colorado League of Charter Schools, Stand for Children Colorado, Serve Colorado, and EPIC, who share their commitment to improving early literacy statewide.