Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

02/04/2020 09:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
09:00:01 AM Start
09:00:19 AM SB6
10:33:47 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Teleconference <Listen Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Discussion to Focus on Policy Implications of the
Grade-Level Reading Program
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB 6-PRE-K/ELEM ED PROGRAMS/FUNDING; READING                                                                      
9:00:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  announced the consideration of  SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE                                                               
FOR  SENATE BILL  NO.  6,  "An Act  relating  to early  education                                                               
programs provided  by school districts;  relating to  funding for                                                               
early  education   programs;  relating  to  the   duties  of  the                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development; establishing  a                                                               
reading intervention program for  public school students enrolled                                                               
in  grades kindergarten  through three;  establishing a  literacy                                                               
program  in the  Department of  Education and  Early Development;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
CHAIR STEVENS  said this is the  third hearing and his  intent is                                                               
to hold the bill. He asked  the committee to focus the discussion                                                               
on  the  policy  of  retention regarding  mandatory  grade  level                                                               
reading. He asked Senator Begich for comments.                                                                                  
9:00:56 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH,  speaking as sponsor of  SB 6, said the  point of                                                               
the  bill  is to  ensure  that  the state  effectively  addresses                                                               
students'  ability  to  read  and  graduate and  go  on  to  lead                                                               
meaningful lives.  The committee  has repeatedly  said throughout                                                               
the  hearings  that a  reading  program  without effective  early                                                               
education and prekindergarten does not  work. The data shows that                                                               
prekindergarten  without  an  effective reading  program  is  not                                                               
sustainable in the  long run. SB 6 combines both  with some extra                                                               
intervention which he and the governor's office support.                                                                        
CHAIR STEVENS  commented that there  is enormous support  for the                                                               
bill throughout this  building, but a number  of important points                                                               
need  to be  understood  better.  He called  Mr.  Griffin to  the                                                               
9:02:16 AM                                                                                                                    
BOB  GRIFFIN, Senior  Education  Research  Fellow, Alaska  Policy                                                               
Forum,  Anchorage, Alaska,  stated  that he  has  worked for  the                                                               
Alaska Policy  Forum as a  volunteer education researcher  for 11                                                               
years. He thanked Senator Begich  and Governor Dunleavy for their                                                               
bipartisan effort to help the  kids of Alaska. He thanked Senator                                                               
Hughes for her leadership on this  issue with her bill last year.                                                               
He thanked  Representative Drummond and  Posie Boggs and  all the                                                               
reading task force  members that added to this  "great stone soup                                                               
of a bill" that will be one of  the best in the country. He noted                                                               
that Representative  LeDoux introduced a similar  reading bill as                                                               
early  as  2013. People  have  been  chipping  away at  this  and                                                               
finally,  a good  bipartisan understanding  of what  needs to  be                                                               
done  exists. He  also thanked  the  staff at  the Department  of                                                               
Education and Early Development (DEED) for their hard work.                                                                     
MR.  GRIFFIN pointed  out that  the  number one  priority of  the                                                               
Alaska Education  Challenge and the  State Board of  Education is                                                               
to  improve early  childhood literacy.  He advised  that when  he                                                               
talks about this topic, he  always starts with the statement that                                                               
Alaska's  kids  are   just  as  bright,  its   teachers  just  as                                                               
dedicated, and Alaska's  parents love their kids just  as much as                                                               
anywhere else,  but policy  decisions drive  some of  the state's                                                               
disappointing outcomes.                                                                                                         
9:04:18 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  GRIFFIN showed  a  map on  slide 2  of  his presentation  to                                                               
illustrate that  only 13  states, including  Alaska, do  not have                                                               
reading   policies.   States  in   dark   blue   have  the   most                                                               
comprehensive  reading policies.  Should  SB 6  pass its  current                                                               
form, Alaska would be the  twelfth dark blue state. The committee                                                               
heard [policy analyst]  Tom Keily of the  Education Commission of                                                               
the  States  speak  about  the  three  components  [of  an  early                                                               
literacy policy]--prevention,  intervention, and retention.  SB 6                                                               
is strong in  all components. Of the policies  recommended by the                                                               
Foundation  for   Excellence  in  Education,  this   bill  scores                                                               
strongly in 12 of 14 categories.                                                                                                
MR.  GRIFFIN   presented  Alaska   vs.  Florida   NAEP  [National                                                               
Assessment of Educational Progress] Standings  2003 on slide 3 to                                                               
frame "why  we're here."  In 2003, all  states were  required for                                                               
the first  time to  participate in NAEP.  Florida was  average in                                                               
2003.  Alaska  already  had  some  deficiencies  in  some  areas,                                                               
particularly in  reading, but for  eighth grade math,  Alaska was                                                               
ahead  of Florida  for kids  who  qualified for  free or  reduced                                                               
lunch and  kids who did not  qualify, as shown by  the numbers in                                                               
dark blue. He noted that he  breaks his work into economic strata                                                               
because  it makes  it easier  to compare  high-poverty states  to                                                               
low-poverty  states. Nationwide,  there is  generally a  30-point                                                               
difference on the  NAEP for kids who qualify for  free or reduced                                                               
lunch and kids who do not.                                                                                                      
9:06:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFIN said the comparison between  2003 and 2019 on slide 4                                                               
shows  that  Alaska  slid  dramatically  in  its  standings.  The                                                               
numbers in  red show  the state  finished in  the bottom  five in                                                               
seven  of  the  eight  categories  shown on  the  slide.  In  the                                                               
meantime, Florida  has risen to  a top  five finisher in  four of                                                               
the eight  categories and has  increased its  standing nationwide                                                               
in  all eight  categories.  Florida was  the  original model  for                                                               
comprehensive reading  policies. California  was the  first state                                                               
to have  strong retention policies,  but it  did not have  the 14                                                               
points of Florida's strong reading policy.                                                                                      
MR. GRIFFIN said  the reading policies that were put  in place in                                                               
Florida were not just an accounting  trick to make the scores for                                                               
kids in  fourth grade look better.  The effect has been  shown in                                                               
eighth grade.  For students  eligible for  free or  reduced lunch                                                               
for  eighth grade  reading, Florida  went from  38th to  fifth in                                                               
U.S. rankings.                                                                                                                  
MR. GRIFFIN said an offensive  narrative popped up last year that                                                               
Alaska's Caucasian  kids were  doing fine.  It was  just Alaska's                                                               
Native kids  who were dragging  test scores down. That  drove him                                                               
to do  some research. The chart  on slide 5 shows  the difference                                                               
between  2003  and  2017,  which is  similar  to  the  difference                                                               
between  2003 and  2019. Caucasian  kids who  do not  qualify for                                                               
free  or reduced  lunch moved  to second  to last  with a  slight                                                               
decline in scale score while Florida  had a 14-point rise in test                                                               
scores for kids in this  category. Alaska across the spectrum has                                                               
reading issues.                                                                                                                 
MR. GRIFFIN  said the slide  2003-2018 Increase in  K-12 Spending                                                               
Florida and Mississippi, highlighted  in yellow, shows that their                                                               
increase in per student spending  in average daily attendance was                                                               
about the  national average, even  though these states  added the                                                               
pre-K and reading programs the committee is considering.                                                                        
SENATOR BEGICH  said he did  not appreciate the comments  he made                                                               
today and in the past about  Alaska Natives. He continued to say,                                                               
"I'm going  to say  one more time  that you've  misrepresented my                                                               
position on that a number of  times. When we were discussing test                                                               
scores, we  talked in this  committee about rural and  urban test                                                               
scores. Your  comments that  continue to  characterize that  as a                                                               
Native  and  White  issue  are  not  appreciated  by  me.  And  I                                                               
recognize   that  we   are  working   together   today  on   this                                                               
legislation, but  that really has hit  me hard for the  last year                                                               
and a half.  I just really want  to put that on the  record. I am                                                               
disappointed that you've just brought it up again."                                                                             
9:10:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES said  she appreciated  Senator Begich's  concern,                                                               
but it was  important the record reflect that  an op-ed described                                                               
it in  those same terms  and it was  not correct. Mr.  Griffin is                                                               
basically  saying   that  many  Alaska  Native   kids  are  doing                                                               
fabulously. The op-ed, which was  disturbing to her, claimed that                                                               
Alaska Natives were dragging down the test scores.                                                                              
CHAIR  STEVENS  stated  that  there is  no  intention  to  offend                                                               
anyone.  He added  that he  understood  Mr. Griffin  to say  that                                                               
Caucasians in urban Alaska are doing worse than in the past.                                                                    
9:11:28 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFIN  agreed and  apologized to  Senator Begich.  He added                                                               
that the comments  were in an op-ed by Dermot  Cole last year and                                                               
repeated in the Capitol and  on the chamber floors several times.                                                               
He said  he reviewed the scores  after the op-ed came  out and it                                                               
seemed  odd that  the  upper  middle income  kids  were near  the                                                               
bottom of  the nation and  low test  scores for Native  kids were                                                               
somehow responsible for dragging down  those test scores. He said                                                               
Alaska has low test scores across the spectrum.                                                                                 
SENATOR BEGICH replied, "Let's try  to move forward with what I'm                                                               
hoping will be  a way of bridging all gaps  and I appreciate your                                                               
comments earlier today as you  opened your presentation about how                                                               
we  are  working  together  in a  bipartisan  manner  to  improve                                                               
reading and to improve education for all Alaskans."                                                                             
MR.  GRIFFIN  displayed  graphs  on  slide  7  that  showed  NAEP                                                               
[National  Assessment  of   Educational  Progress]  fourth  grade                                                               
reading scores  for students eligible  for free or  reduced lunch                                                               
in  states with  strong vs.  weak retention  policies. The  seven                                                               
states with strong retention policies  have about eight times the                                                               
average point  gain over three  NAEP cycles than the  states with                                                               
weaker  retention   policies.  This  indicates  more   growth  in                                                               
students eligible for free or reduced lunch.                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFIN  pointed to the  seven studies  on slide 8  that talk                                                               
about the positive aspects of  retention. He said the research on                                                               
this  is  mixed,  but  more  and more  the  positive  aspects  of                                                               
retention are being found.                                                                                                      
9:15:36 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFIN  concluded that the  retention part of the  bill does                                                               
make a big difference for outcomes in the end.                                                                                  
CHAIR STEVENS asked  if he could give the committee  a brief idea                                                               
about the difference between the  strong-retention states and the                                                               
weak-retention states.                                                                                                          
MR.  GRIFFIN  replied  he  would   give  some  examples  of  weak                                                               
retention  policies. In  Arkansas students  are only  retained if                                                               
they do  not participate in an  Individualized Education Program.                                                               
In Oklahoma, a committee must  make a unanimous decision in order                                                               
for a student to be retained.  In Colorado, the school and parent                                                               
jointly  suggest  retention  but  the decision  is  made  by  the                                                               
superintendent.  In  New Mexico,  parents  can  refuse the  first                                                               
retention.  In Iowa,  students are  not retained  if they  attend                                                               
summer school,  regardless of the outcomes.  Utah, Minnesota, and                                                               
Virginia  have  good,  comprehensive   reading  policies  but  no                                                               
retention policy. He  said his assessment is  that weak retention                                                               
states have significant wiggle room in their retention statutes.                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS asked  him  to describe  the  policies of  strong-                                                               
retention states.                                                                                                               
9:17:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFIN replied,  as a general rule,  strong retention states                                                               
require kids  to read at  a basic, minimum level  of proficiency.                                                               
He pointed  out that SB 6  says that students should  be retained                                                               
if they are not reading at  grade level. That would be aggressive                                                               
compared to  some other states.  A more reasonable  cutline would                                                               
be  to  retain  students  who score  far  below  proficiency,  as                                                               
measured  by  the  Performance Evaluation  for  Alaska's  Schools                                                               
(PEAKS) scores. He said the state  does not know where the bottom                                                               
is for those who score far  below proficiency on the PEAKS but it                                                               
could be  not knowing  the alphabet in  third grade.  In Florida,                                                               
kids who  do not  demonstrate a  basic proficiency  reading level                                                               
are considered for retention.                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS  opined that retention will  be a big issue  as the                                                               
bill progresses.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  shared that  when  she  looks  at the  chart  of                                                               
reading gains on slide  7, she wants Alaska to be  on the side of                                                               
greater gains. She said her  preference is to have a proficiency-                                                               
based promotion policy rather than  one focused on retention. She                                                               
reiterated   her   earlier    statement   that   if   legislators                                                               
accomplished nothing other than this  bill this session, it could                                                               
be  a game  changer for  these students,  their futures,  and the                                                               
state as  a whole.  However, if the  state continues  to socially                                                               
promote, the state is not going to get those outcomes.                                                                          
SENATOR  HUGHES proposed  that legislators  think hard  about the                                                               
goals.  For example,  Colorado is  being considered  as a  policy                                                               
model, but it  is shown as a weak-retention state  on slide 7 and                                                               
its scores went  down in the six years that  are shown. If Alaska                                                               
learns  from  other  states  and  passes  a  bill  with  "teeth,"                                                               
retention could  be phased in  to avoid spikes. For  instance, it                                                               
could be  phased in so  in the  first year retention  would apply                                                               
only to students in kindergarten.  Thus, teachers and students in                                                               
first, second, and  third grades, who had  not fully participated                                                               
in the  program would not  be held responsible. The  Alaska Board                                                               
of Education could develop an  incentive program for teachers who                                                               
reached  certain measurable  progress.  In the  second year,  the                                                               
retention  policy would  apply to  students  in kindergarten  and                                                               
first  grade, the  incentive policy  would apply  to students  in                                                               
second and  third grade,  and so  on. By the  fourth year  of the                                                               
program, the  retention policy  would apply  to all  four grades.                                                               
She offered  her view  that Alaska  should not  fear proficiency-                                                               
based promotion policy  because the outcomes will  be greater and                                                               
students will have diplomas that will be valuable.                                                                              
9:22:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES commented  that her understanding is  that most of                                                               
the  research  studies  were based  on  students  being  retained                                                               
without  massive intervention,  like what  is proposed  in SB  6.                                                               
Children who  were retained in  the early grades continued  to be                                                               
behind  the curve  in the  intermediate grades  and were  failing                                                               
across the board. She said  it is psychologically and emotionally                                                               
traumatic to  be held  back, but it  is also  psychologically and                                                               
emotionally  damaging  to  be  failing in  ninth  grade.  With  a                                                               
proficiency-based promotion policy, those  students who were held                                                               
back in  kindergarten or first  grade would likely  be succeeding                                                               
by ninth grade. She acknowledged  that the research did not apply                                                               
to this  type of scenario. She  said she would like  the goal for                                                               
students held back in second  grade because of reading deficiency                                                               
to be to catch up to their cohorts.                                                                                             
CHAIR STEVENS  said he  appreciated her  consistency in  this and                                                               
her contribution in the past.                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH,  referring to  slide 2,  stated that  Mr. Griffin                                                               
said the  Alaska Policy Forum  hoped Alaska  would be one  of the                                                               
dark  blue  states  [representing   states  with  strong  reading                                                               
policies]. He  noted that  Colorado and  Oklahoma, shown  in dark                                                               
blue, are  also listed  as weak-retention  states. He  said right                                                               
now,  any school  district in  Alaska has  the ability  to retain                                                               
kids. Mr.  Griffin testified  that he liked  the bill  because it                                                               
has a detailed, comprehensive reading  policy and has a condition                                                               
for retention,  which was one of  the key parts of  the 14 points                                                               
of  the Foundation  for Excellence  in Education.  Senator Begich                                                               
pointed out that  the way the bill is construed,  Alaska would be                                                               
in  the category  of  dark  blue states  if  the legislature  can                                                               
maintain  consistency  with  clear  reading  outcomes  and  known                                                               
policies. For instance,  kids should not progress if  they do not                                                               
meet those outcomes.                                                                                                            
MR. GRIFFIN  agreed. He said  he has reviewed many  reading bills                                                               
and this is  one of the better ones. Of  the 14 points, retention                                                               
gets the most  attention. It makes people pay  attention, but the                                                               
other  13 points  beyond retention  are important  to create  the                                                               
better outcomes Alaska seeks.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  BEGICH shared  that he  wants to  ensure parents  have a                                                               
voice  in the  retention decision.  He  asked Mr.  Griffin if  he                                                               
supported that as well.                                                                                                         
MR. GRIFFIN replied  he absolutely does. The  parents' ability to                                                               
appeal is universal in all those policies.                                                                                      
CHAIR STEVENS invited Dr. Winters to testify.                                                                                   
9:27:52 AM                                                                                                                    
MARCUS WINTERS,  Ph.D., Associate Professor, Wheelock  College of                                                               
Education  and  Human  Development,  Boston  University,  Boston,                                                               
Massachusetts,  informed the  committee that  he is  an economist                                                               
who uses  quantitative research methods  to study the  effects of                                                               
modern education  policies. One thing  he has studied a  lot over                                                               
time  is  test-based  promotion  policies.  He  has  particularly                                                               
studied  Florida's policy  in  a  variety of  ways.  He said  his                                                               
presentation will  lay out some  basic findings from  his studies                                                               
with a brief nod to how the comparisons are made.                                                                               
9:28:56 AM                                                                                                                    
DR.  WINTERS said  his research  in Florida  addressed the  three                                                               
questions shown on slide 2:                                                                                                     
   • What is the effect of retention under the policy on                                                                        
     later student outcomes?                                                                                                    
   • What is the impact of the policy on student                                                                                
     performance within the 3rd grade?                                                                                          
   • What is the cost of retaining students under the                                                                           
DR.  WINTERS  stressed that  he  was  looking  at the  effect  of                                                               
retention under  the policy, along  with the  other interventions                                                               
that are  part of  Florida's policy. He  added that  the question                                                               
about the impact of policy within  the third grade has not gotten                                                               
as much attention as it deserves.                                                                                               
DR. WINTERS presented the effect of retention on slide 3:                                                                       
   • In essence, compare the later outcomes of students who                                                                     
     scored "just" below the threshold on the reading exam                                                                      
     and thus triggered the policy to that of students who                                                                      
      scored "just" above the threshold and thus were not                                                                       
     likely to be retained                                                                                                      
   • Findings:                                                                                                                  
   o Large   immediate   test   score   increase   following                                                                    
     retention that fades over time                                                                                             
   o Still a large positive effect in the 10th grade if                                                                         
     compare when at same grade level                                                                                           
   o No significant effect on high school graduation rate                                                                       
     No significant effect on college entry                                                                                     
   o Significant and substantial increase in GPA                                                                                
   o Significant and substantial decrease in taking                                                                             
     remedial high school courses                                                                                               
DR.  WINTERS  said  he  has  done this  study  several  times  in                                                               
Florida. The  first study  came two years  after the  first class                                                               
was  retained and  the most  recent  one was  conducted when  the                                                               
first  cohort  retained  under the  policy  graduated  from  high                                                               
school.  That  provided  a  look   at  longer  outcomes  and  the                                                               
performance trajectory.                                                                                                         
DR. WINTERS said  he described the technique of  looking at those                                                               
just  below the  threshold  and those  just  above as  regression                                                               
discontinuity,  which   is  a  strong  research   technique  used                                                               
frequently  in  economics.  It  is  considered  as  strong  as  a                                                               
randomized  control trial  in  many ways  because  it allows  the                                                               
comparison of  two students  who are  very similar.  The students                                                               
are followed over time to see and differences in outcome.                                                                       
DR.  WINTERS   noted  that  high  school   graduation  rates  are                                                               
imprecisely estimated,  but students  who were retained  in third                                                               
grade under  the policy had  higher grade point averages  in high                                                               
school and took fewer remedial courses.                                                                                         
9:33:16 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. WINTERS  said he  also examined the  question of  whether the                                                               
policy affects everyone  in the third grade because  it should as                                                               
administrators  try to  avoid the  perceived need  for retention.                                                               
The expectation  is that teachers  and others in the  school will                                                               
put   more  effort   into  pushing   kids  to   increase  reading                                                               
performance  to avoid  falling below  the cutoff.  For the  first                                                               
year  of the  policy, he  found a  meaningful positive  effect in                                                               
third grade performance, prior to  the retention decision. He has                                                               
a  working paper  on a  similar study  he did  in Arizona,  which                                                               
adopted a policy  similar to Florida's about a  decade later, and                                                               
he found almost identical effects.                                                                                              
DR.  WINTERS  said he  also  looks  at  the question  of  whether                                                               
retention   under  the   policy  is   costly,  particularly   for                                                               
taxpayers, because an  additional year of schooling  is much more                                                               
expensive than  some other reading interventions.  Retention also                                                               
imposes  costs on  the retained  students, such  as entering  the                                                               
labor market or college a year  later. The point that he makes in                                                               
the  paper is  that  these costs  are real,  but  they have  been                                                               
overstated in prior work.                                                                                                       
DR. WINTERS  said a  student retained under  the policy  does not                                                               
represent an  additional cost to  taxpayers until the  student is                                                               
in 12th grade. But retention is  not happening in a vacuum. Being                                                               
retained in the third grade  under Florida's policy is associated                                                               
with much  less than an a  full year of additional  schooling. If                                                               
the  policy  were  not  there,  many  students  would  have  been                                                               
retained in  a later grade.  The policy moves retention  into the                                                               
earlier grade  and the  students, on average,  spend less  than a                                                               
full year in that status.  In Florida, the academic benefits from                                                               
the policy far outweighed the  cost of retention when all factors                                                               
are considered.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR STEVENS  mentioned summer school and  individual tutors and                                                               
asked how the additional schooling is handled in Florida.                                                                       
9:38:44 AM                                                                                                                    
DR.  WINTERS  answered  that  some students  might  move  up  and                                                               
reenter  their  cohort, but  the  biggest  difference is  that  a                                                               
student who  was retained  in third grade  because of  the policy                                                               
might have been  retained anyway, so the policy  did not increase                                                               
the number  of years in  school for  that student. If  the policy                                                               
did not  exist, many of those  students would be retained  in the                                                               
fourth or  fifth grade  or later. Being  retained in  third grade                                                               
under the  policy dramatically reduced  the chances  of retention                                                               
in later grades. By including  those students who would have been                                                               
retained  at  a later  grade  in  the  calculation, the  cost  to                                                               
taxpayers is less than a full year of additional schooling.                                                                     
SENATOR HUGHES asked  if the study only looked a  school costs or                                                               
if reduced special  education costs were also factored  in. In an                                                               
earlier  hearing,  the committee  heard  that  without a  reading                                                               
program,  some students  end up  in special  education. And  from                                                               
what she  gathered from  his testimony,  he was  only considering                                                               
the costs to  school budgets, not societal costs.  She noted that                                                               
some  is data  showing that  students who  do not  learn to  read                                                               
often end up incarcerated and on public assistance.                                                                             
9:41:15 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. WINTERS  replied he does  not have  the data to  show whether                                                               
those students  received fewer of  those services. There  is data                                                               
showing retention  increased test scores  and there is  data that                                                               
can  link  increased  test  scores   to  some  of  those  reduced                                                               
services, but  it is not as  strong. That could be  an additional                                                               
reduction  of  costs,  but  it  cannot  be  proven  in  the  same                                                               
empirical manner.                                                                                                               
DR. WINTERS said the Florida study  did not show a large decrease                                                               
in the probability that retained  students were placed in special                                                               
education. But  there is convincing work  showing that increasing                                                               
student performance  reduces the probability of  students getting                                                               
a  new Individualized  Education Program  (IEP), particularly  in                                                               
the category of  specific learning disability. One  reason that a                                                               
large effect  is not seen  in Florida's policy  is that a  lot of                                                               
specific learning  disability classifications  have been  made by                                                               
third grade.  There was not a  lot of empirical evidence  one way                                                               
or the other so that is not part of the cost estimate.                                                                          
9:42:55 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked if most  states retain students primarily in                                                               
third grade,  or earlier. She  noted there is some  concern about                                                               
the psychological impact  about retention, and the  older a child                                                               
is, the greater the concern.                                                                                                    
DR. WINTERS  replied that is  an interesting question, but  he is                                                               
not  aware of  work  that has  systematically  looked at  whether                                                               
there is a change in retention  rates prior to a student entering                                                               
third grade. He said it  makes intuitive sense that schools might                                                               
respond that way, but he has  not seen any systemic work on that.                                                               
His work  has been focused  on measuring the effect  of retention                                                               
under the  policy in Florida,  and that  is all happening  in the                                                               
third grade.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  him to  comment  on the  possibility of  a                                                               
phased-in approach for a  proficiency-based promotion policy that                                                               
would  be paired  with  incentives. The  full  policy would  only                                                               
apply to the  cohort of students who have had  the full advantage                                                               
of the great  reading program. She asked if he  had seen anything                                                               
like that in  other states and whether that might  be a solution.                                                               
She said this  state would not want a huge  number of students to                                                               
repeat a  grade the first year  the policy is implemented,  and a                                                               
phased-in approach might avoid that.                                                                                            
9:45:17 AM                                                                                                                    
DR.  WINTERS  responded  that  he  did not  know  of  any  direct                                                               
evidence  that looked  at that  approach, but  there is  evidence                                                               
that  schools respond  to these  policies by  making improvements                                                               
before third  grade. His work  that shows  a jump in  third grade                                                               
performance relative  to later grades  suggests that  schools are                                                               
trying  to make  gains  to  push students  over  that line.  Test                                                               
scores do not  exist for earlier grades. In the  similar study in                                                               
Arizona where  he saw that  third grade effect,  some qualitative                                                               
(not  quantitative or  empirical)  research was  done by  WestEd.                                                               
They  reported   through  interviews  with  school   leaders  and                                                               
teachers that  schools were focusing  on reading  instruction and                                                               
making changes  in early  grades, so there  is reason  to believe                                                               
that schools will  increase the effort prior to  third grade with                                                               
some  incentives  and  other additional  resources.  In  Florida,                                                               
retention is the culmination of  the policy, but other things are                                                               
going on in earlier grades.                                                                                                     
DR. WINTERS added that the  other thing that should be considered                                                               
when  adopting these  policies is  where  to draw  the line  that                                                               
triggers  the policy.  That varies  in different  states. Florida                                                               
saw a large increase in  retention because the line between Level                                                               
1  and Level  2 was  very high  relative to  the distribution  of                                                               
reading performance within the state.  Trying to study the effect                                                               
of retention in  Arizona was difficult because the  cutoff was so                                                               
low that few students were  retained. Policy makers need to think                                                               
about where  the best  place is  to draw  that line,  making sure                                                               
that students who need treatment get  it but also keeping in mind                                                               
how many students might be affected.                                                                                            
CHAIR  STEVENS   called  on  Ms.   Gallanos  from   the  Colorado                                                               
Department of Education.                                                                                                        
9:48:36 AM                                                                                                                    
ANJI GALLANOS,  Director of Preschool  Through 3rd  Grade Office,                                                               
Colorado Department  of Education, Denver, Colorado,  shared that                                                               
she  was a  former  Alaska  teacher and  employee  of the  Alaska                                                               
Department of  Education and Early  Development (DEED)  where she                                                               
served  as the  literacy content  specialist and  early childhood                                                               
education  director.  She  said  the  Colorado  preschool  office                                                               
supports state-funded  preschool and  the K-3  reading initiative                                                               
called the READ Act.                                                                                                            
MS. GALLANOS said she would  share information about two Colorado                                                               
programs  as opportunities  for reflection.  Colorado has  funded                                                               
part-day preschool for  31 years and is  showing strong outcomes.                                                               
Students who participated were more  likely to do better on third                                                               
grade summative  assessments, were  less likely to  be identified                                                               
as having a significant reading  deficiency, and were more likely                                                               
to graduate on time. The  investment Colorado is making in three-                                                               
and four-year-olds  is seeing strong long-term  results. She said                                                               
she would provide a copy  of the Colorado 2020 legislative report                                                               
with outcome data.                                                                                                              
MS. GALLANOS reported that Colorado  has learned that the purpose                                                               
of preschool is not just school  readiness. That is just one step                                                               
of  a  child's academic  preparation.  For  the impact  of  high-                                                               
quality preschool to  be seen, children must  continue to receive                                                               
the  benefits  of a  quality  education  into the  early  grades.                                                               
Colorado  has  committed  to a  stronger  connection  of  efforts                                                               
across  preschool through  third grade  systems. This  integrated                                                               
approach builds upon  successes and will help  more students stay                                                               
on track for school success.                                                                                                    
MS.  GALLANOS said  that in  addition to  the preschool  program,                                                               
Colorado  joined  37 other  states  to  implement a  K-3  reading                                                               
initiative. The 2018/2019 school year  was the fifth full year of                                                               
implementation for  the Colorado  READ Act.  There has  seen deep                                                               
commitment  from school  leaders, teachers,  and parents  but the                                                               
state realized  it needs  to see better  outcomes in  reading. It                                                               
takes  time  for  parents  and   teachers  to  work  together  to                                                               
successfully  support  reading  acquisition.  Colorado  has  been                                                               
consistently  monitoring  for  the  best outcomes  and  does  not                                                               
consider a lack  of significant progress to be a  sign of lack of                                                               
success. Rather,  it is  an opportunity  to recommit  and refocus                                                               
MS. GALLANOS advised that as Alaska  considers SB 6, it can learn                                                               
from  Colorado and  the 37  other  states. Many  states have  K-3                                                               
reading  policies and  although SB  6 and  the Colorado  bill are                                                               
different, almost  all K-3 reading  bills have certain  things in                                                               
9:52:54 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. GALLANOS  said the  first commonality  is polices  related to                                                               
screenings,  assessments,  and   collaboration  with  parents  on                                                               
individual planning. Most states use  a screener that is reliable                                                               
and valid  at demonstrating which  students will be most  at risk                                                               
to  fail  third  grade  assessments.  The  screener  is  used  to                                                               
identify   students  with   reading  deficiencies,   it  monitors                                                               
progress, and supports  the notification of parents.  It helps to                                                               
create  individual reading  plans  so that  interventions can  be                                                               
collaborative between parents and  schools. Screening is critical                                                               
for  supporting  intervention.  Intervention  plans  have  to  be                                                               
written with  that knowledge. Plans  written without  knowing the                                                               
areas  of deficiencies  cannot  help  provide accurate  planning.                                                               
Quality  screeners  that are  discrete  enough  to flag  students                                                               
likely to fail  outcomes tests will stop the  pattern of failure.                                                               
In Colorado,  ongoing screening  and statewide  reporting allowed                                                               
the  state to  identify exactly  how  the Colorado  READ Act  was                                                               
being implemented and quickly make necessary changes.                                                                           
MS.  GALLANOS   said  another  common  factor   is  policies  for                                                               
intensive intervention for children who  need it and retention in                                                               
third grade.  Only a few  states have policies related  to direct                                                               
support  from   the  state  department  of   education.  Colorado                                                               
provides early  literacy grants to  school districts,  which have                                                               
shown  strong  outcomes.  Those  grants  provide  direct  support                                                               
through   coaching,  intervention   services,  and   professional                                                               
development. Mississippi,  Arizona, and  North Dakota  are states                                                               
that provide direct support as in SB 6.                                                                                         
9:55:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. GALLANOS said  the Colorado bill, although  different than SB
6,  can  be  a  learning  tool, but  first  it  is  important  to                                                               
understand  and align  with the  science-based reading  research.                                                               
This is 30  years of research compiled from  thousands of studies                                                               
with similar  findings on  how the  brain processes  written text                                                               
across  multiple  languages.  These  studies  provide  conclusive                                                               
evidence about how  people learn to read, why  some struggle, and                                                               
the type  of instruction  shown to have  the greatest  impacts on                                                               
reading outcomes.                                                                                                               
She said  Colorado came to  recognize that it  had implementation                                                               
challenges  and it  needed greater  intensity to  support reading                                                               
outcomes.  The state  board of  education  and state  legislature                                                               
made changes  to the READ Act  in 2019 and that  bill passed with                                                               
rare, unanimous consent.                                                                                                        
MS. GALLANOS  said it might  be useful  for Alaska to  reflect on                                                               
the metrics  that led Colorado  to reauthorize its READ  Act. For                                                               
Colorado, success of the K-3  reading initiative was defined as a                                                               
reduction in the  number children identified as  having a reading                                                               
deficiency,  as demonstrated  by  one  of seven  districts-choice                                                               
screening tools.                                                                                                                
Each year  about 14 to  16 percent  of children in  Colorado were                                                               
shown to  have a significant  reading deficiency  (SRD). However,                                                               
Colorado did not measure the  number of students newly identified                                                               
and  the number  of students  who were  no longer  identified, so                                                               
they had  no way  to measure  the flow of  students coming  in as                                                               
newly identified  and the  flow of  students making  progress and                                                               
those  no longer  identified with  a SRD.  This made  it seem  as                                                               
though   the   rate   of  children   with   significant   reading                                                               
deficiencies  was  stagnant, even  though  there  was no  way  to                                                               
confirm  that  data.  She  suggested that  Alaska  can  start  by                                                               
ensuring  that  the metrics  that  are  used to  measure  student                                                               
growth  actually show  how many  students move  between benchmark                                                               
points on a reliable and valid screening tool.                                                                                  
MS. GALLANOS advised that what  success looks like in Alaska also                                                               
needs to  be identified. Most states'  summative assessments only                                                               
measure  a child's  ability to  read and  understand grade  level                                                               
text. Summative  assessments cannot  show if students  can decode                                                               
actual words  in the text.  A reading submeasure could  be useful                                                               
to identify whether poor performance  is related to comprehension                                                               
of the test or lack of ability to decode the words.                                                                             
She said another key  point that is not in SB  6 is that Colorado                                                               
provides  funding  for each  student  identified  with a  reading                                                               
deficiency. Colorado  school districts  get about $650  for every                                                               
student identified  with a reading  deficiency, using one  of the                                                               
seven assessments.  She said two  things happen. First,  there is                                                               
no direct  comparability between assessments. She  suggested that                                                               
selecting one  assessment as a  baseline could be  an opportunity                                                               
for Alaska  to have  a more  aligned approach.  Second, carefully                                                               
think through  whether or  not to  allocate specific  dollars per                                                               
child. Districts  tend to come to  depend on a certain  amount of                                                               
available funding,  which could be  a disincentive to  reduce the                                                               
number of  students identified. SB  6 funds districts as  a whole                                                               
rather than providing per pupil  funding. She noted that Oklahoma                                                               
is the only other state that provides per pupil funding.                                                                        
10:00:00 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. GALLANOS  related that the  Colorado Department  of Education                                                               
initially was prohibited from asking  districts about how the per                                                               
pupil  funds were  spent, so  it had  no idea  if the  funds were                                                               
being used for interventions.  With the reauthorization, Colorado                                                               
can  review  district  budgets and  authorize  allowable  use  of                                                               
funding.  Budget and  expenditure monitoring  can help  to ensure                                                               
that funds are being used for the necessary intervention.                                                                       
MS.  GALLANOS  reported  that Colorado,  along  with  many  other                                                               
states, realized  that many  teachers did not  know how  to teach                                                               
children  to   read  based  on  reading   science  and  effective                                                               
practices. From  her experience and  work in Alaska as  a teacher                                                               
and  an  employee  of  the department,  she  believes  that  many                                                               
districts are  implementing reading  practices that are  not only                                                               
ineffective but detrimental to  reading development. The Colorado                                                               
legislature mandated that  all K-3 teachers in the  state pass an                                                               
approved  course in  foundational reading.  Colorado is  taking a                                                               
close look at  the types of instructional  programs districts are                                                               
using, the  professional development  provided, and the  way that                                                               
higher education is preparing teachers.  Colorado has an approved                                                               
list of instructional  programs and is working  with its educator                                                               
effectiveness  division  to  improve  teacher  prep  programs  to                                                               
ensure   that  higher   education   institutions  are   providing                                                               
coursework in evidence-based reading practices.                                                                                 
10:01:47 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  GALLANOS  noted  that Colorado  retains  few  students,  but                                                               
screening,  intervention,  teacher  training, and  supports  must                                                               
form the basis  of a program so that a  retained student does not                                                               
receive another  year of the  same type of  programming. Colorado                                                               
is  focusing on  the foundation  of  the program  and the  things                                                               
needed  to assure  that  students have  solid  supports and  that                                                               
retention is a last option.                                                                                                     
MS. GALLANOS noted  again that the Colorado and  Alaska bills are                                                               
different.  Alaska is  unique, and  Alaskan educators  understand                                                               
how to support  students. SB 6 aligns the  preschool program with                                                               
K-3  by  investing  in intervention  early.  She  encouraged  the                                                               
legislators  to  be  well  versed   in  the  types  of  preschool                                                               
implementation and K-3 reading policies across the nation.                                                                      
MS. GALLANOS concluded  by stating that 30 years  of research and                                                               
evidence show that if children  are supported early and taught to                                                               
read  using  evidence-based,   systemic  processes  that  include                                                               
phonological awareness, phonics,  fluency, vocabulary development                                                               
and comprehension, all but 2 to  5 percent of children will learn                                                               
to read  and in that,  children in  Alaska are no  different from                                                               
children in any other state.                                                                                                    
10:03:21 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS said he appreciated  her thoughts on the science of                                                               
reading; the committee has heard  that repeatedly. He asked if SB
6 does  enough to bring  teachers into  the modern world  to make                                                               
sure that  everyone is ready through  professional development to                                                               
take students forward.                                                                                                          
MS. GALLANOS replied  she is encouraged by the way  SB 6 draws on                                                               
research about how students learn  to read. This started with the                                                               
research put out by the National  Reading Panel in 2000, so there                                                               
are ample  resources and solid  programs. Mississippi has  done a                                                               
lot of  work in training  teachers specifically on  evidence- and                                                               
science-based  reading intervention.  Colorado  now is  reviewing                                                               
160  instructional programs  to see  which vendors  are providing                                                               
the best product.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  BEGICH said  Senator  Stevens was  asking  whether SB  6                                                               
allows  for that  provision. He  said reviewing  curriculum is  a                                                               
department function and  the department is seeking to  do that in                                                               
regulation.  He  asked if  SB  6  needs  to  be stronger  in  its                                                               
10:05:58 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. GALLANOS  responded that the  bill should define  and clearly                                                               
outline  what it  means by  science- and  evidence-based reading.                                                               
That  could   be  a  lesson   gained  from  Colorado   where  the                                                               
legislation  was clear  in defining  science- and  evidence-based                                                               
reading  and  what  it  looked   like.  This  ensures  that  when                                                               
districts or the department interprets  that, there is backing in                                                               
the language in the law.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BEGICH  observed that that  was one of the  more detailed                                                               
elements in  the Colorado READ Act.  He said it was  not included                                                               
in the Alaska bill  to try to reduce the volume,  but that can be                                                               
reviewed.  In   the  past,  the   department  has   not  provided                                                               
substantial support to  districts, but the bill  and fiscal notes                                                               
reported at  the last hearing underscore  a significant financial                                                               
commitment  from  the  administration  to  support  districts  in                                                               
providing training opportunities for  their teachers. He asked if                                                               
that is consistent with the  types of support necessary to ensure                                                               
teacher readiness and understanding to teach children to read.                                                                  
MS. GALLANOS  replied absolutely. When Colorado  reauthorized its                                                               
bill, it put  intentional effort into training  all K-3 teachers.                                                               
Now  the  Colorado Department  of  Education  is responsible  for                                                               
training nearly 60,000 K-3 teachers  in evidence-based reading. A                                                               
request  for proposals  (RFP) went  out to  find vendors  to help                                                               
provide  that training  because  it is  needed. She  acknowledged                                                               
that when  she taught in  Alaska, she did  not know how  to teach                                                               
students  to read.  She  was  not taught  those  skills when  she                                                               
earned a master's degree in  education. Higher education programs                                                               
are not focused  on training teachers how to  teach reading. Many                                                               
districts do not know how  to provide professional development in                                                               
reading. She emphasized the importance  of supporting teachers so                                                               
they  can  support readers  and  identify  students with  reading                                                               
delays. That aspect has been important in Colorado.                                                                             
SENATOR BEGICH said  two elements in the bill speak  to that. One                                                               
section  talks about  the  department's  responsibility to  offer                                                               
trainings. The bill has accountability  clauses that are based on                                                               
research so the  state will know it is getting  what it needs. He                                                               
related that one of the reading  task force findings was the need                                                               
to  screen for  learning disabilities  and the  bill tries  to do                                                               
that.  He asked  if she  had recommendations  to strengthen  that                                                               
section. He  noted that one  thing he enjoyed about  the Colorado                                                               
READ Act is  the way it continues to evolve  by making data-based                                                               
adjustments.  He said  that is  one  intent of  SB 6;  to get  it                                                               
started,  to  measure,  and  then  make  quick  adjustments  each                                                               
subsequent year. He  asked if the bill does enough  to screen for                                                               
disabilities such as dyslexia.                                                                                                  
MS. GALLANOS  said she  could not  comment on  whether SB  6 does                                                               
enough  to address  dyslexia without  first conferring  with Alex                                                               
Frasier,  Colorado's dyslexia  expert. However,  a separate  bill                                                               
passed  the Colorado  House  last year  created  a dyslexia  task                                                               
force and working  group. That working group  offered parents and                                                               
advocates an  opportunity to review the  Colorado legislation and                                                               
identify its  shortcomings. The  working group  is taking  an in-                                                               
depth  look  at  the  types assessments  and  relying  on  expert                                                               
testimony  about  whether  Colorado's  assessments  are  discrete                                                               
enough to support the identification  of dyslexia. She encouraged                                                               
the committee to consider establishing  a dyslexia task force and                                                               
working group  to provide expert  guidance to  see if SB  6 looks                                                               
for  the  risk factors  in  a  way  that supports  students  with                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS  said he and  Senator Hughes  do not know  what the                                                               
University of  Alaska is doing  in terms of teaching  the science                                                               
of reading. The committee needs to find out.                                                                                    
10:13:52 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR COGHILL  summarized that  SB 6  contemplates intervention                                                               
services  and hiring  reading  specialists. He  said  one of  his                                                               
concerns  regarding intervention  is  that  regular K-3  teachers                                                               
will not  be able to  perform at the  same level of  teaching. He                                                               
asked if Colorado had a concerted  effort to bring teachers up to                                                               
the same standard. "One of my  fears was that we'd find ourselves                                                               
in a mismatch situation," he said.                                                                                              
MS. GALLANO  agreed that K-3  general education teachers  need to                                                               
provide an  opportunity to  extend interventionist  learning into                                                               
the classroom.  She shared that  her work as a  special education                                                               
teacher in  K-3 was  enhanced by a  partnership with  the general                                                               
education teacher.  An interventionist  can provide  support, but                                                               
kids need to  be in a classroom that  provides additional support                                                               
and opportunity for students to  practice what they are learning.                                                               
A  partnership  has  to  happen  between  the  general  education                                                               
teachers and intervention teachers.                                                                                             
CHAIR  STEVENS noted  that further  work clearly  is needed  with                                                               
dyslexia  and the  University of  Alaska. He  called Commissioner                                                               
Johnson to the table.                                                                                                           
10:16:22 AM                                                                                                                   
MICHAEL  JOHNSON, Ph.D.,  Commissioner,  Department of  Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (DEED), Juneau,  Alaska, stated  that his                                                               
comments would  touch primarily on implementation  and briefly on                                                               
the question of  retention. He said the bill is  full of elements                                                               
implementation  and  for  some   of  the  large  components,  the                                                               
department  will  need to  work  collaboratively  with the  State                                                               
Board of  Education through regulation and  with school districts                                                               
and teachers and  parents so the implementation  has the greatest                                                               
chance  of success.  The work  to develop  high-quality standards                                                               
for  the pre-K  program  has already  begun but  it  needs to  be                                                               
finished and adopted by the  board. Then the department will need                                                               
a process  to award  the grants associated  with the  program. It                                                               
will also need  to help the districts meet  the grant application                                                               
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said  the department will need  a process to                                                               
award grants  associated with the  program and they will  need to                                                               
do some work to assist  districts in meeting those standards. The                                                               
bill  also  has a  lot  of  requirements  for the  department  to                                                               
provide  professional  development  and training  for  educators.                                                               
Also, the department has to  collaborate on selecting a screening                                                               
tool  because  most  districts currently  are  doing  screenings.                                                               
Implementation  includes parent  notification  and resources  and                                                               
involvement  and  public  data  reporting  and  independent  data                                                               
analysis. The bill assumes  continual improvement and refinement,                                                               
whether  through regulation  or  future legislation,  so data  is                                                               
important. He noted his interest  in ensuring that the bill works                                                               
for students and not against districts.  He said the data will be                                                               
used for program assessment  and evaluation. School-based reading                                                               
improvement  is a  big part  of  the bill.  All of  that will  be                                                               
implemented  in  conjunction  with  the state  board  and  school                                                               
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON emphasized  that SB  6 is  not a  retention                                                               
bill. It is about giving  every child the possibility of learning                                                               
to read.  He said  retention has generated  lots of  interest but                                                               
that is  just one kind  of intervention. As this  discussion goes                                                               
on, he  asked the committee  to keep in mind  that it is  just as                                                               
detrimental to minimize the impact  of promoting students who are                                                               
not proficient  in reading as  it is  to overuse retention  as an                                                               
intervention.  He  said he  would  not  expect that  anyone  will                                                               
celebrate  retention, but  it is  a  legitimate intervention  for                                                               
some students.                                                                                                                  
10:21:30 AM                                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said a wide  assumption about the meaning of                                                               
retention is  that students are  automatically held back  if they                                                               
score poorly on  one test, but that is not  in this bill. Another                                                               
assumption  is  that  retained students  will  receive  the  same                                                               
instruction a  second time. SB  6 provides that students  who are                                                               
retained will get the instruction they need.                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  pointed out that Alaska's  statutes already                                                               
assume  that retention  is possible.  AS 14.03.072  requires each                                                               
district  to  annually  provide   parents  with  grade  retention                                                               
standards.  Almost  every  school   district  in  the  state  has                                                               
retention policies  in board policy.  For example,  the Anchorage                                                               
School District recognizes, especially  in the lower grades, that                                                               
retention  may  be necessary  to  ensure  student proficiency  in                                                               
reading  and  mathematics.  When  academically  appropriate,  the                                                               
superintendent   or  designee   shall  promote   alternatives  to                                                               
retention among certified staff.  Northwest Arctic Borough School                                                               
District says  retention may  be considered  when a  student does                                                               
not  have  the  required  appropriate and  necessary  skills  and                                                               
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said he sees  four categories that have been                                                               
worked  into the  bill related  to promotion  or retention.  One,                                                               
communication is  a strong element. By  statute, school districts                                                               
are  required  to  report grade  level  retention  standards  and                                                               
policies.   The   districts   must  explain   implementation   of                                                               
intervention or  progression strategies. The second  big category                                                               
is collaboration. Retention cannot be  made in isolation; a group                                                               
of  people that  includes the  parent, teacher,  and others  must                                                               
make  that  decision. Third,  the  bill  provides guidelines  and                                                               
safeguards. It  states that a  school board may exempt  a student                                                               
from delayed  grade level  progression for  good cause  and lists                                                               
some of  the exemptions.  This bill  provides an  appeal process,                                                               
exemptions, guidelines, and safeguards.  Currently, the state has                                                               
no safeguards for  retention; it is just allowed.  The fourth big                                                               
category  is transparency  because school  districts must  report                                                               
the number and percentage of  students retained and the number of                                                               
students promoted who are not proficient in reading.                                                                            
10:24:55 AM                                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON stated  that the goal is  to avoid retention                                                               
through quality  instruction that results in  proficient readers.                                                               
The bill provides  for students who may need  additional time and                                                               
instruction.  It treats  promotion  and retention  in a  balanced                                                               
manner  and it  gives students,  parents, and  administrators the                                                               
structure needed to elevate all  voices to make the best decision                                                               
possible for each student individually.  The bill requires parent                                                               
involvement and  it requires that  families be  given information                                                               
and  resources   to  support  children  learning   to  read.  For                                                               
teachers,   this   bill  allows   retention   as   one  of   many                                                               
interventions and it documents  the expertise and recommendations                                                               
of teachers.  Retention can  be for  a whole grade  or part  of a                                                               
grade   or   one   subject   of    a   grade.   For   principals,                                                               
superintendents,  or school  boards, this  provides a  process to                                                               
make  sure   there  is  consistent,  thoughtful,   and  effective                                                               
decision-making  about all  students. This  bill provides  annual                                                               
reports  to  the  legislature regarding  the  implementation  and                                                               
effectiveness of  the Alaska Reads  Act, including  promotion and                                                               
retention.   Most  importantly,   this  bill   provides  students                                                               
multiple  pathways   to  demonstrate  proficiency   and  provides                                                               
evidence-based interventions  if needed and  multiple safeguards,                                                               
whether  students  are  promoted  without  grade  level  readings                                                               
skills or retained.                                                                                                             
CHAIR STEVENS  commented that  "it's easy  to get  wrapped around                                                               
the axle on retention when, in  fact, that's not what this is all                                                               
about." It is  about improving the system for  students. He asked                                                               
the commissioner to discuss screening tools.                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  explained  that  a screening  tool  is  an                                                               
assessment to  identify students who  might not be on  track with                                                               
learning to  read. The tool  looks different at each  grade level                                                               
and vendors provide the tool.  Many school districts in the state                                                               
have used  AIMSweb, for example.  In first grade,  students would                                                               
be screened  for identification of  sounds and letters.  In third                                                               
grade, students would be screened  for reading fluently enough to                                                               
comprehend. It  is a quick  measure to identify students  who may                                                               
be struggling with learning to read.                                                                                            
SENATOR  BEGICH thanked  the commissioner  for  the summary  that                                                               
underscores the  work done  to hear  all voices.  This bill  is a                                                               
balance.  It may  not include  everything  some would  want in  a                                                               
bill,  but  it  is  a   comprehensive  look  at  these  different                                                               
10:28:45 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR   HUGHES  said   she  appreciated   the   point  that   a                                                               
proficiency-based promotion policy  is one tool, and  it would be                                                               
the last tool. That  is important to keep in mind.  It would be a                                                               
small group  of students.  The bill  talks about  considering not                                                               
promoting  a   child  who  is  reading   below  proficiency.  Her                                                               
understanding is that category is  quite broad. Dr. Winters spoke                                                               
about a certain threshold or  cut line. Her understanding is that                                                               
some other  states refer to  far below proficiency.  She wondered                                                               
whether that language  should be adjusted. A child who  is just a                                                               
bit below proficiency could probably  be helped in the next grade                                                               
but being far below proficiency is a real concern.                                                                              
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied he just  heard of that idea  in the                                                               
last few days and it is worthy of consideration.                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES raised  two issues to consider before  moving SB 6                                                               
on to  the next committee,  class size and eligibility  dates for                                                               
enrollment. She mentioned that she  had a discussion with Senator                                                               
Begich about how helpful it would  be to teachers if students are                                                               
slightly older throughout the grades.  The amount of intervention                                                               
would be  less. With a  cutoff date of September  1, particularly                                                               
for the  four-year-old cohort, students  who are three  years old                                                               
could  start in  August.  Little boys  often lag  developmentally                                                               
behind little girls, although either gender  may not be on par as                                                               
far as  readiness and  development. It concerns  her that  a very                                                               
young  three-year-old could  be part  of a  four-year-old cohort.                                                               
Eligibility dates factor  in for preparation for  four- and five-                                                               
year-olds, along with grades K-3.                                                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES noted  that as far as class sizes,  she heard from                                                               
a first-grade  teacher with  26 students.  Florida's constitution                                                               
has a limit of 18  students for kindergarten through third grade.                                                               
She understands that  the Anchorage School District  has a policy                                                               
of around 20 students. She would  like to have a discussion about                                                               
class  size and  to encourage  districts to  have a  policy about                                                               
class size. This  act will be more successful if  the K-3 classes                                                               
are smaller, as well as for the four- and five-year-olds.                                                                       
SENATOR  BEGICH said  that  in response  to  the discussion  with                                                               
Senator  Hughes,  there  has   been  consideration  about  adding                                                               
language in the research section for  a report on class size. The                                                               
age issue is  also being looked into.  Those recommendations will                                                               
be brought to the committee.                                                                                                    
10:33:31 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS  observed that there  were still many  questions to                                                               
consider and held SB 6 in committee.