Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

02/12/2020 09:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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09:00:11 AM Start
09:00:34 AM SB6
10:27:48 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB 6-PRE-K/ELEM ED PROGRAMS/FUNDING; READING                                                                      
9:00:34 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."                                                                                           
He noted  that the committee substitute,  work order 31-LS0159\G,                                                               
was  available but  this  hearing would  be  spent taking  public                                                               
9:01:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  reminded everyone  that in all  versions of  SB 6                                                               
and in  the previous version, SB  99, pre-K is not  mandated. The                                                               
bill  is clear  that it  always remains  the parent's  choice. He                                                               
also addressed  concerns of homeschool  parents. AS  14.03.016 is                                                               
about the parent's right to  direct the education of the parent's                                                               
child.  It  recognizes the  authority  of  a parent,  allows  the                                                               
parent to  object to and  withdraw the child from  the standards-                                                               
based assessment  or test required  by the state. This  bill does                                                               
not  mandate that  parents who  homeschool would  have to  do the                                                               
screenings in  SB 6. Parents'  rights under AS 14.03.016  are not                                                               
changed under this bill.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  BEGICH   noted  that  the  bill   requests  that  school                                                               
districts provide  the department the  ratio of kids  to teachers                                                               
in a  classroom, to gather  good data  from around the  state. He                                                               
reminded  the committee  that Mr.  Parker [NEA-Alaska  President]                                                               
talked about large class sizes  in each of the committee member's                                                               
school  districts. Legislators  want  to  address that  important                                                               
issue but need  evidence from rural and urban areas  of the state                                                               
to identify the  effect of class sizes. Under SB  6, this element                                                               
would be  reported to the  department and  to both the  House and                                                               
Senate Education Committees.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  shared  that  he  received  several  emails  from                                                               
homeschool  parents who  need to  understand that  parents always                                                               
have the right to opt out.                                                                                                      
9:04:53 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES said  everyone knows that smaller  class sizes are                                                               
better  at   the  lower  grades.  She   encouraged  districts  to                                                               
reprioritize funding  to reduce  the classroom ratio  of students                                                               
to teaching  staff. The  bill will not  mandate that,  but school                                                               
districts and  boards should be  doing that as much  as possible,                                                               
she said.                                                                                                                       
9:06:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  reminded the public  that written  testimony could                                                               
be  submitted  to  senate.education@akleg.gov. He  opened  public                                                               
testimony on SB 6.                                                                                                              
9:06:43 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease.                                                                                                                        
9:06:46 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY  BETH   VERHELST,  representing  self,   Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
applauded the state for taking  action to ensure that all Alaskan                                                               
students learn  to read  well. She is  an instructional  coach at                                                               
the district  level for  the Anchorage  School District.  She has                                                               
been a  kindergarten teacher.  She has  experienced the  need for                                                               
explicit teaching of the five  essential areas of reading and for                                                               
having an  assessment system in  place to show  the effectiveness                                                               
of  instruction. As  she has  worked with  teachers, the  need is                                                               
apparent  to  support  teacher  in teaching  the  five  areas  of                                                               
reading:  phonemic awareness,  phonics, fluency,  vocabulary, and                                                               
comprehension. Many teachers have not  had the training on how to                                                               
teach  phonics  explicitly  so  that all  students  get  a  well-                                                               
developed phonics  lesson daily,  especially in  kindergarten and                                                               
first grade, where it is essential.                                                                                             
9:08:43 AM                                                                                                                    
DEBBIE  CARY, Member,  Kenai  Peninsula  Borough School  District                                                               
School Board, Ninilchik, Alaska, said  her district is in support                                                               
of SB 6.  She asked about the  change from September 1  to June 1                                                               
for kindergarten entry in the committee substitute.                                                                             
SENATOR BEGICH  explained that  the date  for the  qualifying age                                                               
for kindergarten is being changed from  September 1 to June 1. He                                                               
said Senator  Hughes can speak about  the developmental awareness                                                               
of  a child.  According to  the  data from  the department,  that                                                               
change would have affected eight kids in the state.                                                                             
SENATOR HUGHES added that the change  will allow kids to be older                                                               
and more  prepared to enter school.  It allows a few  more months                                                               
for children to  mature which will be helpful to  teachers. A lot                                                               
of parents  now hold  boys back  a year to  allow them  to mature                                                               
before entering  school. This just adds  a few months so  the set                                                               
of students will be more mature.                                                                                                
MS. CARY stated that would  be more than eight students. Students                                                               
born  from   June  1   through  September   1  would   not  enter                                                               
kindergarten until they are almost six.                                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH  replied he got  the data from the  department. If                                                               
that is not correct, he would like to hear from the department.                                                                 
SENATOR  HUGHES  said she  thought  the  data indicated  that  on                                                               
October 1, eight students were still  not that age, but the point                                                               
is to  allow children  to mature.  It would  be all  the children                                                               
born  between June  and  September.  A lot  of  schools begin  in                                                               
August,  so some  four-year-olds enter  kindergarten. This  would                                                               
mean that all students starting  kindergarten would be five years                                                               
CHAIR  STEVENS  said  further  questions  about  that  should  be                                                               
directed to the department.                                                                                                     
9:13:05 AM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER KNUTSON, Ph.D., Senior  Director, Teaching and Learning,                                                               
Anchorage  School District  (ASD), Anchorage,  Alaska, said  SB 6                                                               
provides direction  and support  to ensure all  Alaskans students                                                               
are proficient readers by third grade.  She worked in two Title I                                                               
schools  in  Anchorage  that  were  part  of  the  Reading  First                                                               
initiative  in  the early  to  mid-2000s.  With that  grant,  ASD                                                               
implemented many  of the  practices that are  in this  bill. That                                                               
includes a  core curriculum that  addresses those  five essential                                                               
areas  of  reading,  universal reading  screening,  targeted  and                                                               
intensive  reading  interventions  and progress  monitoring.  ASD                                                               
implemented reading  instruction and what  is now referred  to as                                                               
response  to  instruction  or  multitiered  systems  of  support.                                                               
During that time, the third  graders increased from 28 proficient                                                               
or higher  on state assessments  in 2001  to 85 percent  in 2006.                                                               
ASD saw significant  results with this model in  Title I schools.                                                               
Reading is  the one content  area with a convergence  of evidence                                                               
about how students learn and how  to best teach. Given the higher                                                               
standards the  state has in 2020,  it is even more  critical that                                                               
it  have  this early  reading  instruction  for all  students  in                                                               
Alaska. This would allow students  to access advanced classes and                                                               
experience the joy  of reading. She offered her support  for SB 6                                                               
as a parent and district administrator.                                                                                         
CHAIR STEVENS thanked her for  providing the specific information                                                               
about the students' improvement in reading skills.                                                                              
9:16:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTINE    VILLANO,    representing   self/retired    teachers,                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska, said she has  been an Alaskan teacher for many                                                               
years.  Her  training  and  courses   have  focused  on  reading,                                                               
writing, and  STEAM [science, technology, engineering,  arts, and                                                               
mathematics] education. She  taught in the inner  city in Newark,                                                               
New Jersey,  in the Yupik village  of St. Mary's, and  has been a                                                               
first  grade teacher  in Fairbanks  for more  than 45  years. Her                                                               
professional  life  has  been focused  on  teaching  reading  and                                                               
writing. She  likes many things  in the bill--pre-K  programs for                                                               
all  Alaskan  children,  the  focus  on  reading  practices,  the                                                               
connection with parents, and early reading interventions.                                                                       
MS. VILLANO  said she  is concerned  about how  the bill  will be                                                               
funded. Early primary  teachers often face large  class sizes and                                                               
will be  hard pressed to  do all  the components required  by the                                                               
bill. She  is encouraged  about the  state's interest  in reading                                                               
but concerned  about the prescriptive  nature of the  bill. Basic                                                               
skills are important but that is  only part of a balanced reading                                                               
program.  The  bill  needs  more  teacher  voice  throughout  the                                                               
process from the selection  of supplemental materials, assessment                                                               
tools, professional development, the  retention policies, and how                                                               
the program will be implemented.                                                                                                
MS. VILLANO said those who have  been in the classrooms have much                                                               
to  offer  the  legislature   on  reading  instruction,  progress                                                               
monitoring, interventions,  and assessment.  Teachers need  to be                                                               
part of  the process of how  the legislation evolves and  what it                                                               
will look  like in  the future.  Teacher "buy-in"  and motivation                                                               
happens  when  teachers  are  part  of  the  process  and  policy                                                               
implementation.  A  one-size-fits-all  reading program  does  not                                                               
work. Educators need to be  able to differentiate and personalize                                                               
instruction.  All   reading  instruction  should   be  culturally                                                               
relevant  and  developmentally  appropriate.  Issues  of  English                                                               
language learners must  be addressed. She said  she is passionate                                                               
about class  size. The bill  talks about small  group instruction                                                               
and frequent  assessments and reporting  to parents. This  is all                                                               
best practices, but she has taught  up to 31 first graders. It is                                                               
difficult to reach the needs of  all kids in such a stressful and                                                               
difficult   situation.   When   classes   are   smaller   reading                                                               
instruction is much more successful.                                                                                            
MS.  VILLANO said  she wants  this  bill to  succeed because  she                                                               
wants  Alaskan   kids  to   succeed.  With   just  a   couple  of                                                               
modifications,  it could  benefit Alaskan  students. She  thanked                                                               
Senator Begich for  meeting with groups of teachers  to get their                                                               
input on  the bill. She asked  the committee to feel  free to use                                                               
her expertise as well as that of many of her colleagues.                                                                        
9:21:07 AM                                                                                                                    
JUDY ELEDGE, State Literacy  Coordinator, Department of Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (DEED), Anchorage,  Alaska, said  she has                                                               
been an educator  since 1981 and since 1997 has  lived and worked                                                               
in  rural  Alaska.  Since  2003  she has  worked  in  the  lowest                                                               
performing  schools  in  the  state.  She  has  been  a  teacher,                                                               
principal,  curriculum director,  testing coordinator,  and state                                                               
instructional coach  and now is  the state  literacy coordinator.                                                               
She wants  to commend  the wonderful teachers  she has  known and                                                               
worked with  through the  years. There are  many reasons  for why                                                               
the state  is where  it is  today. That blame  does not  only lie                                                               
with teachers, who  are often blamed, but  on parents, districts,                                                               
and  local school  boards. The  law will  not work  without total                                                               
commitment from all stakeholders.                                                                                               
MS. ELEDGE said she wanted to  comment on one of the changes that                                                               
were  reviewed  in  yesterday's  meeting.  For  item  17  of  the                                                               
explanation of  changes in the  committee substitute,  she thinks                                                               
there  may not  have been  knowledge about  what already  exists.                                                               
Item   17   states   to    insert   "require   consideration   of                                                               
recommendations  from   the  2018-2019  Task  Force   on  Reading                                                               
Proficiency and Dyslexia."  References to this task  force are in                                                               
several statewide  documents regarding literacy. The  $21 million                                                               
comprehensive literacy  state development  grant received  by the                                                               
Department of  Education and Early Development  (DEED) in October                                                               
of 2019  includes state activities  related to the approval  of a                                                               
state  literacy  plan  and  an   update  to  the  Alaska  reading                                                               
blueprint. These  tasks are  already under way  as part  of grant                                                               
activities.  The draft  state literacy  plan  includes that  task                                                               
force  report,  along  with other  evidence-based  interventions.                                                               
Under this  plan, the task force  is mentioned as the  number one                                                               
evidence-based resource. This report is  included in full in this                                                               
plan. It  is also listed  as the  fourth reference for  the state                                                               
plan.  After   consultation  with   the  department,   she  would                                                               
recommend  a  change to  item  17  to  better represent  what  is                                                               
already   happening  in   the  state.   Also,  not   all  reading                                                               
deficiencies are  dyslexia related.  This would broaden  and make                                                               
language consistent for all students with reading difficulties.                                                                 
MS. ELEDGE said she will submit this wording to the chair:                                                                      
     Current DEED  efforts include state  activities related                                                                    
     to the approval of a  state literacy plan and an update                                                                    
     to  the   Alaska  reading  blueprint,   which  includes                                                                    
     recommendations  from  the   2018-2019  Task  Force  on                                                                    
     Reading  Proficiency and  Dyslexia and  other evidence-                                                                    
     based  reports  that  define screenings  or  assessment                                                                    
     tools that meet the needs of all students.                                                                                 
This wording would better include  all the efforts going forward,                                                               
not just that one task force.                                                                                                   
9:25:00 AM                                                                                                                    
STACI  EIBERT,  representing  self/parent/homeschool,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska,  said the  common  ground  in the  state  is knowing  the                                                               
importance of the  state's children. Everyone wants  what is best                                                               
for  the  students   of  Alaska.  The  failure   of  the  current                                                               
educational  model  is that  it  is  based  on the  20th  century                                                               
response to  the Industrial Revolution. Factories  needed workers                                                               
with a  common set of  skills and knowledge.  This one-size-fits-                                                               
all  methodology made  sense in  its time.  However, in  the 21st                                                               
century  the digital  revolution shrank  the globe  and education                                                               
must  adapt.  She  cited successful  examples  from  Finland  and                                                               
Japan. The dangers of continuing  down the one-size-fits-all path                                                               
is  evident.  The  21st  century  work  force  must  be  able  to                                                               
collaborate, adapt, and problem  solve. No one-size-fits-all test                                                               
can  measure these  intelligences. Critical  thinking skills  are                                                               
forged in a facilitative classroom  environment. The Alaska Reads                                                               
Act  is  right  in  its  heart, but  wrong  in  its  methodology.                                                               
Everyone wants students to achieve  more, but this is going about                                                               
it in the archaic way.                                                                                                          
9:28:05 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID NEESE, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, noted that he                                                               
was a member of the House  Education Task Force in 2014. The task                                                               
force found a  swing in methodology of reading  delivery over the                                                               
years.  Alaska is  not  getting what  it is  supposed  to out  of                                                               
reading. In Anchorage,  2,063 out of 3,400 third  graders in 2019                                                               
were  not   proficient  on  PEAKS  (Performance   Evaluation  for                                                               
Alaska's Schools).  In Fairbanks  North Star School  Borough, 600                                                               
of  1,000 were  not proficient.  In the  Kenai Peninsula  Borough                                                               
School District,  326 out of 580  were not proficient and  in the                                                               
Juneau School district, 186 out  of 300 were not proficient. This                                                               
bill  does  not  help  those kids.  Delaying  any  implementation                                                               
promotes  several  thousand  kids  to fourth  grade  without  any                                                               
intervention. These are students who  have not been able to prove                                                               
their  ability in  English  language  arts. He  said  it is  very                                                               
important to pass this bill and  he offered his support for SB 6,                                                               
as written.                                                                                                                     
9:31:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS REITAN, Superintendent, Craig  City School District, Craig,                                                               
Alaska, thanked  the committee for  the improvements to  the bill                                                               
based  on previous  testimony.  It is  obvious  the committee  is                                                               
listening and  trying to  craft the most  equitable bill  for all                                                               
Alaskans.  He referred  to page  13 of  the committee  substitute                                                               
regarding how the department will  adopt a statewide screening or                                                               
assessment  tool  for  kindergarten  through  grade  three  under                                                               
Section 14.30.760. The bill states  this will be done three times                                                               
each school  year. Craig  City School  District operates  PACE, a                                                               
statewide  homeschool program  with students  all over  the state                                                               
and in a number of remote areas.  He said he is not sure how this                                                               
bill will intersect with  homeschool families, particularly those                                                               
who live  in remote areas.  On page 14, Section  14.30.765 states                                                               
that reading  intervention services  will be offered  to students                                                               
in  kindergarten  through  grade  three  who  exhibit  a  reading                                                               
deficiency.  Providing that  in an  equitable fashion  is another                                                               
concern  for  homeschool  programs.  He noted  that  it  will  be                                                               
difficult to find and hire  the necessary reading instructors. He                                                               
clarified  that he  is not  suggesting the  bill should  not move                                                               
forward,  but merely  pointing out  that  school districts  could                                                               
have difficulty finding people to provide these services.                                                                       
9:33:52 AM                                                                                                                    
SHAWN  ARNOLD, Superintendent,  Valdez  City Schools,  President,                                                               
Alaska Superintendents  Association, Valdez, Alaska, said  he was                                                               
optimistic  about   many  components  of  this   bill,  including                                                               
providing reliable  funding for  early education programs  and an                                                               
increased focus on reading proficiency  by third grade. These two                                                               
pillars  are   critical  to  ensure  all   Alaskan  students  are                                                               
adequately  prepared to  live  successful  and fulfilling  lives.                                                               
Establishing statewide, early education  programs means the state                                                               
supports  children  in a  critical  development  time period  and                                                               
prepares them to  be successful students in  first grade. Further                                                               
initiatives   to    provide   evidence-based    instruction   and                                                               
interventions  will only  strengthen  the  progress made  through                                                               
these early learning initiatives.                                                                                               
MR. ARNOLD said  as Dr. Parady testified last  week, this reading                                                               
bill will not  reach its full potential unless  it is accompanied                                                               
by other  changes in education  in Alaska. Teacher  and principal                                                               
turnover,  the  social, emotional,  and  mental  health needs  of                                                               
students,  and historical  trauma continues  to have  significant                                                               
impact  on  student  abilities and  outcomes.  Any  new  program,                                                               
curriculum, or  intervention will be undermined  by the realities                                                               
and practical  aspects of learning  conditions across  Alaska. As                                                               
the  bill moves  forward,  these pieces  must  be addressed.  The                                                               
science on  the effective methods  of teaching reading  is clear,                                                               
as is  research on  student retention. He  and his  colleagues do                                                               
not fear  retention or  accountability, but  these administrators                                                               
know  it can  hurt kids.  For  example, research  has shown  that                                                               
retention  has a  negative  impact on  students.  The studies  in                                                               
Florida  can be  misleading since  those studies  do not  provide                                                               
definitive  data  on the  pure  effect  of retention  on  student                                                               
MR.  ARNOLD said  the state  should focus  on the  most effective                                                               
instruction and intervention and  consider potential obstacles to                                                               
avoid  pitfalls. He  emphasized the  need for  increased feedback                                                               
from  educators  on  critical parts  of  the  bill.  Commissioner                                                               
Johnson  asked superintendents  for general  input about  reading                                                               
early   in  this   process.  Alaska's   administrators  responded                                                               
immediately with a  willingness to help craft the  bill and offer                                                               
meaningful input. Superintendents asked  the commissioner and the                                                               
governor  repeatedly  to share  ideas  but  were not  given  that                                                               
opportunity  until   Senator  Begich  introduced  the   bill  and                                                               
solicited  input.  Superintendents  were  not  initially  at  the                                                               
table, so  the bill had  limited input from educators  in Alaska.                                                               
He offered  his view  that SB 6  is a good  start and  by working                                                               
together the bill can be one that is good for all students.                                                                     
9:38:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS noted the arrival of Senator Coghill.                                                                             
9:38:30 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY  KRETZSCHMAR, Decoding  Dyslexia Alaska,  Anchorage, Alaska,                                                               
said Decoding  Dyslexia is  a parent-led  movement. She  spoke in                                                               
support  of SB  6, but  urged the  committee not  to delete  "and                                                               
publish  on  the  district's  Internet  website"  the  number  of                                                               
students  being  retained  from  advancing  to  the  next  grade.                                                               
Reporting and accountability should  be transparent. Parents need                                                               
to  be  able  to  access  information  through  their  districts.                                                               
Parents cannot always  navigate the state's database  but can ask                                                               
local  school districts  for the  information.  If districts  are                                                               
required to report  the number of students being  retained, it is                                                               
more accessible and transparent.  She suggested that there should                                                               
be  a  public  notice  requirement.   The  Alaska  Reads  Act  is                                                               
important, but  it must be  crafted with strong language  to hold                                                               
everyone accountable.                                                                                                           
SENATOR BEGICH  clarified that the  school districts  would still                                                               
report  to  the department  and  the  legislature. The  committee                                                               
substitute (CS) for  SB 6 does not eliminate  reporting, but some                                                               
districts did  not want  to be  required to  report on  their web                                                               
sites. However,  he acknowledged that  she makes a good  point in                                                               
that school districts should share  that information with parents                                                               
who are interested in it.                                                                                                       
9:41:28 AM                                                                                                                    
RONDA  SCHLUMBOHM, Teacher,  Salcha  Elementary, Salcha,  Alaska,                                                               
said  she has  taught for  30  years, 22  of which  have been  at                                                               
Salcha Elementary. She  has a reading endorsement  and a master's                                                               
degree in education.  She applauds the committee's  work on pre-K                                                               
and  moving the  date for  entrance into  kindergarten. She  said                                                               
placing a  reading teacher  in schools that  are struggling  is a                                                               
good  start. She  expressed concern  that  the language  in SB  6                                                               
changes the  language to only  reading, which means  that writing                                                               
will be  neglected. This  is problematic  because writing  is how                                                               
many  children  access  print  and  learn  how  language  is  put                                                               
together. Another  concern is that  SB 6 only  mentions dyslexia,                                                               
but  there  are other  reading  deficiencies.  She suggested  the                                                               
committee could  develop language in  the bill that  supports all                                                               
struggling readers. Research  states that time spent  on print is                                                               
the most beneficial way to  help children learn to read. Teaching                                                               
must be  balanced and engaging  and teachers must  teach phonemic                                                               
awareness, phonics,  fluency, vocabulary, and  comprehension. The                                                               
National  Reading  Panel  included  all  five  aspects.  Further,                                                               
vocabulary and comprehension cannot be neglected, she said.                                                                     
MS.  SCHLUMBOHM  expressed concern  that  emphasis  is placed  on                                                               
screeners  because they  do not  always  accurately capture  what                                                               
students know.  She turned to  class size, stating  that teachers                                                               
with 27  students in their  classrooms cannot  adequately respond                                                               
to all of the needs. One  of her colleagues said even for veteran                                                               
teachers, teaching is hard, but  the biggest reason kids struggle                                                               
to read  stems from  poverty. She  said poverty  affects Maslow's                                                               
hierarchy of needs,  the number of books at  home, and children's                                                               
exposure to words. She said adding  pre-K is a good start, but it                                                               
does not  address dealing with traumatized  children, coping with                                                               
challenging behavior in  classrooms, or making sure  all kids are                                                               
ready  to  learn. She  referred  to  her written  testimony  with                                                               
research  links. She  offered her  willingness  to discuss  these                                                               
issues because teaching is her passion and her life's work.                                                                     
9:45:09 AM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT  MACMANUS,  Superintendent,  Alaska Gateway  Schools,  Tok,                                                               
Alaska, said there are many good things  in SB 6 The intent is to                                                               
get kids reading at level in  third grade. That has been the goal                                                               
for the last five years for  his school district and the district                                                               
is  making progress  on  that.  The district  uses  AIMSweb as  a                                                               
screener and a blended instructional  model that incorporates the                                                               
findings of the  National Reading Panel. Teachers  are trained on                                                               
vision-related learning  issues, such  as dyslexia.  Teachers and                                                               
aides  have   all  received   training  on   these  instructional                                                               
programs. The  district has  made significant  gains in  the past                                                               
four years with  reading in the elementary  population because of                                                               
the focus on  reading. Some classrooms had a full  grade level of                                                               
improvement over the  regular growth curve. He  has seen students                                                               
lose ground  with poor teachers.  Those teachers are  replaced as                                                               
soon as possible.                                                                                                               
MR. MACMANUS  said there is much  to like in the  bill, including                                                               
the honorable  intent of most of  the sponsors to make  sure kids                                                               
can read and  function literately in a society  that requires it.                                                               
The  bill  supports  pre-K and  parent  engagement  and  provides                                                               
support  from  the  department  to  train  staff.  It  bases  its                                                               
findings on  the National Reading  Panel. But some  aspects raise                                                               
serious flags. The one-size-fits-all  approach, the loss of local                                                               
control,  the significant  reporting  mandates,  the emphasis  on                                                               
centralized control  from the department.  Those will  crush this                                                               
idea.  Perhaps most  important is  the availability  of qualified                                                               
staff.  He  advertised  for a  reading  interventionist  for  two                                                               
years. One  came for one semester  before getting on a  plane and                                                               
going  back to  the states.  He  would like  to see  a bill  that                                                               
focuses on student growth and  takes into account where many kids                                                               
are  starting  from.  He  suggested   a  menu  of  screeners  for                                                               
districts  to choose  from. He  would  like to  see a  university                                                               
training program that  is available to teachers  and aides. Aides                                                               
are  critical  for long-term  change.  He  suggested a  phased-in                                                               
implementation.  Resolving  this  is   a  function  of  available                                                               
resources. School  districts are already being  tasked with doing                                                               
more  and more.  Based  on  getting funded  .5  [for pre-K],  his                                                               
district would get  $144,000. A quick estimate  suggests it would                                                               
cost $400,000 to  implement the bill. He supports  the intent and                                                               
much of the  content of SB 6.  He hopes more input  is taken from                                                               
educators before the bill is finalized.  He wants to see the bill                                                               
implemented in a way that would be effective in rural Alaska.                                                                   
9:48:58 AM                                                                                                                    
ESTHER  PEPIN, Early  Learning  Coordinator,  Bristol Bay  School                                                               
District,  King Salmon,  Alaska,  said she  supports funding  for                                                               
pre-K. Having public funding for  preschool will allow schools to                                                               
build relationships with families early  on. Schools need to have                                                               
conversations   about   important    milestones   in   children's                                                               
development  on a  local  level.  Learning to  read  is so  often                                                               
affected by  children's social and emotional  development. Having                                                               
funding  for preschool  will support  district  efforts to  begin                                                               
this work in the critical  years of development. If districts are                                                               
to develop  a strategic response  to intervention in  grades K-3,                                                               
the role that preschool plays  in the development of phonological                                                               
awareness must be considered.                                                                                                   
MS. PEPIN  said her district  has been able to  provide preschool                                                               
for every  three and four-year-old  in the community  because the                                                               
district has  been a  recipient of  a state  pre-elementary grant                                                               
for  the  past  four  years. Having  funding  for  preschool  has                                                               
ensured that the district's children  are ready for kindergarten.                                                               
The Alaska Developmental Profile  annually measures 13 goals that                                                               
are  significant  predictors  of  students'  success  in  school.                                                               
Before receiving  pre-elementary funding,  only 25 to  35 percent                                                               
of Bristol  Bay students  were fully  ready for  kindergarten. In                                                               
the four years  of the grant, the percentage of  students who are                                                               
ready  for  kindergarten ranges  from  60  to 100  percent.  With                                                               
support through the bill, the  district hopes that this readiness                                                               
level  will  continue and  it  will  have  more data  to  compare                                                               
kindergarten  readiness to  third grade  reading scores.  A high-                                                               
quality  preschool  is  a  challenge   for  school  districts  to                                                               
collaborate with  families and elders  and community  partners to                                                               
develop a model of continuity of  care with K-3 so that preschool                                                               
is not a silo experience. Continuity  of care also applies to the                                                               
Alaska Native ways  of knowing and the  Western education system.                                                               
As a mother  of a child who  will be in preschool  next year, she                                                               
said  she  hopes  that  he   will  have  a  rich  environment  to                                                               
socialize,  develop  problem  solving  skills  and  collaboration                                                               
skills, and play with other  children as he begins his educations                                                               
career and life.                                                                                                                
9:52:56 AM                                                                                                                    
DONN  LISTON, representing  self,  Eagle River,  Alaska, said  he                                                               
holds  a  Master  of  Education from  the  University  of  Alaska                                                               
Southeast. He taught  adult basic education at  the Mountain View                                                               
Community Center in  Anchorage and at the Wasilla  Job Center. In                                                               
2013  he  was named  a  BP  Teacher  of  Excellence. He  said  an                                                               
estimated 25 percent of Alaska's  kindergarteners do not graduate                                                               
from high school. He offered his  view that the primary reason is                                                               
poor reading skills.  Many of his adult  basic education students                                                               
must first  learn phonics  in order  to learn  to read.  He found                                                               
that once students overcame poor  reading methods, these students                                                               
quickly  learned  to  read.  He  taught  GED  [General  Education                                                               
Development] to students of varied ages.  He said he did not find                                                               
any evidence  that early pre-K programs  impacted their potential                                                               
for success.  The Constitution  of the  State of  Alaska requires                                                               
the state  to provide an education  for children from the  age of                                                               
seven. The  state has reading  specialists throughout  the state,                                                               
but students  learn when  they are ready,  motivated, and  have a                                                               
capable teacher.  In closing, he  said he supports any  effort to                                                               
ensure Alaskans can learn to read at an early age.                                                                              
9:55:24 AM                                                                                                                    
POSIE  BOGGS,   Member,  Alaska  Reading   Coalition,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, said she  is excited to see the changes  to strengthen SB
6. For example, simply using  the word "reading" focuses the bill                                                               
on reading  and not the whole  of education. In a  pre-K bill, it                                                               
is important to define appropriate  prereading skills that should                                                               
be  assessed  in  preschool  and   then  be  directly  taught  in                                                               
preschool in engaging  and fun ways that are not  drill and kill.                                                               
Having that  same sort of  language continue into  K-3 classrooms                                                               
is  important. She  is happy  to  see there  will be  a panel  of                                                               
stakeholders  to  consider the  efficacy  of  the act.  She  said                                                               
defining terms  such as  evidence-based reading  intervention and                                                               
reading specialist in statute is critical.                                                                                      
MS.  BOGGS said  the state  needs many  highly knowledgeable  and                                                               
skilled  teachers   of  reading.  Dr.  Steve   Atwater  says  the                                                               
University  of   Alaska's  initial  licensure   programs  already                                                               
produce this level of reading  teacher. She question how that can                                                               
be verified. UA  needs beginning teachers to  have fluent reading                                                               
instructional skills and current  teachers need to become reading                                                               
specialists.  One way  to be  sure  that UA  is producing  fluent                                                               
reading teachers is  to have the university  administer a reading                                                               
competency  exam   similar  to   those  used   in  Massachusetts,                                                               
Colorado, Arkansas,  Connecticut, and  other states.  The results                                                               
should be reported to the legislature.  It may be thinking out of                                                               
the box,  but the legislature  created ISER (Institute  of Social                                                               
and Economic  Research) quite  a few  years ago.  The legislature                                                               
could fund a multidisciplinary institute of reading excellence.                                                                 
CHAIR STEVENS  announced that because the  committee schedule was                                                               
so  tight,  he  would  have  to limit  public  testimony  to  two                                                               
minutes.   He    stated   that    written   comments    sent   to                                                               
senate.education@akleg.gov would be appreciated.                                                                                
10:00:37 AM                                                                                                                   
MARVAT OBEIDI, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, said she is                                                               
in support of  the Alaska Reads Act. As a  parent of a four-year-                                                               
old  and educator,  she thanked  the State  of Alaska  for taking                                                               
action to  ensure that all  students learn  to read. As  a former                                                               
classroom teacher,  an English language learner  teacher, and now                                                               
an  English  language learner  coach  with  the Anchorage  School                                                               
District, she understands  that there is not only a  need to help                                                               
students  decode  but  to  ensure that  students  are  in  school                                                               
environments  that  are  rich  in  vocabulary  and  that  support                                                               
language   acquisition.  Both   are   essential  components   for                                                               
developing language and skilled readers.                                                                                        
10:01:44 AM                                                                                                                   
JODI TAYLOR,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, said  she is                                                               
joined by her  friend Celeste Hodge Growden, who is  on the NAACP                                                               
board. She and Ms. Growden both  support SB 6. Students in Alaska                                                               
need  focused  reading,  especially  early  reading,  to  achieve                                                               
success  throughout their  school years.  Statistical data  shows                                                               
that if students  can read proficiently by third  grade, they are                                                               
successful  in  the  rest  of   their  academic  years.  However,                                                               
students who  do not  read by third  grade are  unsuccessful. She                                                               
has personally observed  this when she has  helped administer ACT                                                               
camps. She  offered her  support for  student retention,  so that                                                               
students have  outcome-driven results. She related  that she held                                                               
her  daughter back  in  first  grade and  repeating  it was  very                                                               
beneficial  for her  daughter. She  offered her  belief that  the                                                               
accountability provision in the bill will help all students.                                                                    
10:03:25 AM                                                                                                                   
ABBE  HENSLEY,  Executive  Director, Best  Beginning,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, began  with the quote  "children are made readers  on the                                                               
laps of  their parents."  That says  beautifully and  clearly why                                                               
she  does  what  she  does  every  day.  Everyone  wants  Alaskan                                                               
children  to read  well  by  the time  students  leave the  third                                                               
grade. That  makes a  big difference  in children's  whole lives.                                                               
She  is watching  the evolution  of SB  6 and  is excited  to see                                                               
support for  more state-funded preschool,  a designated  home for                                                               
Parents as Teachers, and a detailed  plan to ensure kids learn to                                                               
read by  third grade.  She encouraged  the committee  to consider                                                               
the recommendations made in  the National Governors Association's                                                               
publication  "Governor's  Pocket  Guide to  Early  Literacy."  It                                                               
includes  five action  steps. Four  of them  are included  in the                                                               
bill. She is  not suggesting adding anything to the  bill, but to                                                               
keep  the fifth  action  step  in mind.  That  is  to engage  and                                                               
support  families  as partners  in  early  language and  literacy                                                               
development, invest in programs  that increase families' capacity                                                               
to  build  their children's  language  and  literacy skills.  For                                                               
example,  home  visits,  public/private partnerships  to  promote                                                               
parent/child book reading and home  libraries, and early literacy                                                               
campaigns  focused  on  families.   This  list  focuses  on  what                                                               
families can do at home. As  the committee hones the Alaska Reads                                                               
Act, she  asked them to keep  in mind that getting  ready to read                                                               
does not  begin when  a child turns  four and  attends preschool.                                                               
The American  Academy of Pediatrics recommends  that parents read                                                               
to their children beginning at birth.                                                                                           
10:06:43 AM                                                                                                                   
BRAD GALBRAITH, Regional Advocacy  Director, ExcelinEd in Action,                                                               
Phoenix,  Arizona, said  ExcelinEd is  a national  nonprofit that                                                               
works on student-centered policies  across the country. ExcelinEd                                                               
has  worked  on  several  reading  acts  and  has  identified  14                                                               
fundamental principles  that make  a successful reading  act. His                                                               
organization is  encouraged by  the approach in  SB 6,  which has                                                               
touched upon almost all of  those fundamental principles. It will                                                               
be  a significant  step forward  as the  state strives  to create                                                               
excellent opportunities for students  to succeed throughout their                                                               
lives as proficient readers.                                                                                                    
10:07:48 AM                                                                                                                   
ROY  GETCHELL, Superintendent,  Haines  School District,  Haines,                                                               
Alaska,  said  he  has  an  undergraduate  degree  in  elementary                                                               
education in  the area  of remedial  reading. He  has a  Ph.D. in                                                               
educational leadership and policy  studies from the University of                                                               
Denver. He  successfully implemented the Colorado  Basic Literacy                                                               
Act and  the Colorado  READ Act  as a  teacher and  principal for                                                               
many  years. In  1991, when  he  came to  Alaska as  a brand  new                                                               
teacher,  he was  one  of  over 3,000  candidates  at the  Alaska                                                               
Teacher  Placement  job fair  in  Anchorage.  Those numbers  have                                                               
changed significantly  since then. Alaska's students  are capable                                                               
and  represent the  best of  their generation.  He moved  his two                                                               
daughters  to Alaska  and it  was the  best thing  he could  have                                                               
done. He  offered his view  that Alaskan schools are  not broken.                                                               
However, he  appreciates the early  literacy and  early education                                                               
components in SB  6. He expressed concern about language  in SB 6                                                               
that  requires  districts  to   change  existing  processes.  For                                                               
example, the  Haines School District  uses DIBELS  and Lindamood-                                                               
Bell  and  requiring  the  district   to  change  that  could  be                                                               
problematic. Further,  with the  change from phonic  awareness to                                                               
phonemic  awareness,   he  wonders   whether  many   of  Alaska's                                                               
educators  did not  provide  input before  SB  6 was  introduced.                                                               
Finally,  the retention  policy could  be removed  from the  bill                                                               
since school districts are already allowed to retain students.                                                                  
10:10:37 AM                                                                                                                   
TREVOR  STORRS,  President  and  CEO,  Alaska  Children's  Trust,                                                               
Anchorage,  Alaska, said  that  as the  statewide  leader in  the                                                               
prevention  of child  abuse and  neglect,  the Alaska's  Children                                                               
Trust supports SB 6. Early  childhood education has been shown to                                                               
reduce several of the factors that  put children at risk of abuse                                                               
and  neglect.  He  said  his  testimony is  not  focused  on  the                                                               
language of the bill, but the intent.  The goal of the bill is to                                                               
invest early  and ensure  children are  ready to  be contributing                                                               
members  to  the  collective  success of  the  state.  The  trust                                                               
commends the  bill for recognizing that  investing early provides                                                               
the  best  return on  investment.  However,  it will  be  equally                                                               
important  to remember  that children  need to  arrive at  school                                                               
ready to  learn. No matter  how good  the reading program  is, if                                                               
children arrive hungry or homeless  and cannot access good health                                                               
care or  have trauma in  their lives,  their ability to  learn is                                                               
greatly  hindered.  As  this  bill  moves  forward,  it  will  be                                                               
important  to remember  the role  social determinants  have on  a                                                               
child's  ability  to  learn.  Other  states  have  seen  that  an                                                               
increase  in  third grade  reading  went  beyond instituting  the                                                               
right reading  or pre-K  program. These  states also  ensure that                                                               
children  and their  families  have support  to  reduce the  many                                                               
barriers  to learning.  The trust  encourages the  legislature to                                                               
think of this bill and other  decisions related to the budget. If                                                               
the state invests  here but cuts Medicaid,  food stamps, housing,                                                               
and  homeless  programs,  the  success   of  this  bill  and  the                                                               
investment the legislature is making is greatly reduced.                                                                        
10:13:11 AM                                                                                                                   
MALAN PAQUETTE,  representing self, Kenai Peninsula,  Alaska, did                                                               
not speak to SB 6 in her testimony.                                                                                             
10:15:45 AM                                                                                                                   
DAVID BOYLE, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, said no other                                                               
bill  is more  important  this  session than  SB  6. If  properly                                                               
implemented  with  accountability  metrics, it  will  impact  the                                                               
state's  children. He  supports SB  6 if  it includes  retention.                                                               
Everyone  has  seen the  data  on  how poorly  Alaska's  children                                                               
perform on  national tests. Everyone  can agree that  every child                                                               
should read  at grade  level. The question  is how  to accomplish                                                               
this. SB  6 is  a start, but  it is only  a start  if implemented                                                               
with  accountability. The  legislation  needs teeth  to be  truly                                                               
effective.  To pass  a reading  bill without  retention would  be                                                               
like passing  a DUI bill  with no consequences for  the violator.                                                               
Data clearly shows the positive  effects of retaining students in                                                               
third grade  who are far  below grade level in  reading. Eighteen                                                               
states have  implemented the Florida  model since 2015.  Eight of                                                               
those  states have  strong retention  requirements  and ten  have                                                               
weak  requirements.  Of  the  ten   states  with  weak  retention                                                               
requirements, only four increased  their NAEP scores for students                                                               
eligible  for  free or  reduced  lunch.  Two actually  saw  their                                                               
scores decrease.  The bottom line  is that the NAEP  score growth                                                               
is  six  times higher  for  those  states with  strong  retention                                                               
bills.  The state  could ignore  the data  and pass  a bill  that                                                               
continues  to  fail children  or  the  state can  help  teachers,                                                               
parents, and children to ensure that  all kids can read at grade.                                                               
To  quote  from the  testimony  from  the Association  of  Alaska                                                               
School Boards  on SB 6:  "It seems to  me that retaining  a child                                                               
for lack  of reading  proficiency may  be more  a failure  of the                                                               
system  rather  than  the  fault  of the  child."  He  urged  the                                                               
committee to not  fail a child again by  not requiring retention.                                                               
For public  schools to improve,  every child must have  a teacher                                                               
who can  teach kids how to  read. Parents must also  be helped to                                                               
teach their children to read.                                                                                                   
10:18:44 AM                                                                                                                   
BETHANY   MARCUM,  Executive   Director,  Alaska   Policy  Forum,                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska, said robust  early childhood literacy programs                                                               
are a  proven solution  for Alaska's  last-in-the-country scores.                                                               
These programs have  resulted in gains for children  in some, but                                                               
not all,  of the  states that have  implemented the  programs. In                                                               
some  states,  the results  have  been  flat. The  difference  is                                                               
accountability. In  states such as Colorado  and Connecticut, the                                                               
programs  contain  the right  interventions,  such  as early  and                                                               
continuous parental  notification of struggling  readers, pairing                                                               
the  weakest  readers  with  the  most  effective  teachers,  and                                                               
instruction in  phonological awareness.  In those states,  if the                                                               
interventions  do not  bring a  child to  proficiency, often  the                                                               
child  gets  passed along.  While  some  of these  children  will                                                               
eventually catch up,  many will not. These are  the children most                                                               
likely to drop out of school, end  up in poverty, and land in the                                                               
corrections  system. Some  states  with  early literacy  included                                                               
performance-based promotion  policies. These states have  all the                                                               
same interventions,  but in the end,  if a child is  not at grade                                                               
level  proficiency, the  child  gets a  different  year of  third                                                               
grade, not just  another year of third grade.  The repeated third                                                               
grade includes  targeted, focused  attention, which  is precisely                                                               
what  these children  deserve. In  Mississippi, for  example, the                                                               
number  of children  with disabilities  who  passed the  literacy                                                               
test increased  by 23 percent. There  can be no better  return on                                                               
state  investments  than making  a  difference  in the  lives  of                                                               
Alaska's children, she said.                                                                                                    
10:20:47 AM                                                                                                                   
BARBARA GERARD,  representing self,  Palmer, Alaska, said  she is                                                               
the  principal  of  Academy  Charter School  in  Palmer.  She  is                                                               
excited about  SB 6 and  the movement to improve  literacy across                                                               
the state  of Alaska.  She is  supportive of  the change  for the                                                               
kindergarten eligibility date  from September 1 to  June 1. Three                                                               
years ago,  the Academy's governing  board developed a  policy to                                                               
change  its kindergarten  eligibility  date from  September 1  to                                                               
August 1.  In the three  years following this change  Academy has                                                               
found more of its kindergarten  students entering school ready to                                                               
learn.  Turning five  a few  months before  entering kindergarten                                                               
allows children  to reach  developmental milestones  necessary to                                                               
meet academic  expectations and be more  socially and emotionally                                                               
MS. GERARD  said research supports  early intervention  and early                                                               
learning.  She  supports  preschool  for  all  Alaskan  children.                                                               
Children who have  attended preschool have an  edge when entering                                                               
kindergarten.  They   arrive  with   a  basic   understanding  of                                                               
classroom expectations,  have learned some  collaboration skills,                                                               
have been  exposed to rich  language and vocabulary  and phonemic                                                               
awareness, and  are already developing  the love of  reading. She                                                               
acknowledged that preschool is costly,  but the positive outcomes                                                               
of preschool for  all Alaskan children would reap  not only early                                                               
benefits but  long-term benefits.  From the beginning,  kids need                                                               
to be  on the  trajectory of  reading proficiency.  When children                                                               
learn  to  read  early  and  love to  read,  fewer  children  are                                                               
retained for  a lack of  reading proficiency in second  and third                                                               
grade. She  urged the  committee to  implement preschools  in all                                                               
public schools  and allow pre-elementary  students to  be counted                                                               
in the school's  average daily membership. To be able  to do that                                                               
at  Academy  Charter  School  would  make  it  even  better.  She                                                               
reiterated full support for SB 6.                                                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS  stated that written  testimony could  be submitted                                                               
at any time.                                                                                                                    
10:24:27 AM                                                                                                                   
PATRICK  MAYER,  Superintendent,  Aleutian  East  Borough  School                                                               
District, Sand  Point, Alaska, said  he is the past  president of                                                               
the   Alaska   Superintendents   Association   (ASA)   and   most                                                               
importantly, a  student advocate.  He thanked Senator  Begich for                                                               
introducing  the  Alaska  Reads  Act,  especially  the  universal                                                               
preschool sections.  According to  the 2019  Alaska Developmental                                                               
Profile,   nearly   70   percent  of   Alaskan   students   enter                                                               
kindergarten lacking  foundational preparation for  learning. ASA                                                               
believes equitable access to fully funded, sustainable zero-to-                                                                 
five  and  pre-K  learning  programs  provides  a  foundation  of                                                               
excellent  social,   emotional,  and  cognitive   instruction  to                                                               
students.  Research  demonstrates  that  early  intervention  and                                                               
instruction  is  the best  way  to  increase student  achievement                                                               
across  all demographics  and create  the greatest  opportunities                                                               
for all  students to read  proficiently by third grade.  He fully                                                               
supports that early childhood education  should be part of public                                                               
school funding through the base student allocation.                                                                             
MR. MAYER said students in Alaska  must learn to read and deserve                                                               
no less.  He supports early  assessment of  reading proficiently,                                                               
research-based  interventions for  less than  proficient readers,                                                               
and high-quality professional development  to enable educators to                                                               
create  proficient readers.  However, superintendents  were given                                                               
no  opportunity to  provide  input  in this  bill.  There was  an                                                               
overarching,  general solicitation.  When  he  was president,  he                                                               
asked for a  draft of the bill to provide  meaningful input. This                                                               
did not happen.  A real opportunity to hear from  a broad base of                                                               
superintendents,  principals, and  teachers  will certainly  help                                                               
shape  the bill  to provide  the best  outcomes for  students. He                                                               
encouraged  legislators to  solicit input  from educators  in the                                                               
field who will be asked to  implement anything that is passed. As                                                               
written, the bill is overly  prescriptive about details districts                                                               
must  implement. A  better  approach would  be  to provide  high-                                                               
quality    professional    development     to    educators    and                                                               
paraprofessionals in reading instruction  and intervention and to                                                               
hold  them accountable.  Retention should  not be  a strategy  in                                                               
this  bill.  "Why  would  we   support  something  that  we  know                                                               
unequivocally hurts kids? I've heard  a lot of concern across the                                                               
state  about  the capacity  of  the  Department of  Education  to                                                               
implement  this bill,  especially given  the ambitious  timeline.                                                               
Please consider this in your deliberation.                                                                                      
10:27:12 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS apologized to all  who were not able testify today.                                                               
He reminded  the public  that the  committee will  accept written                                                               
testimony  [at   Senate.Education@akleg.gov.  He   closed  public                                                               
testimony and held SB 6 in committee.                                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
32_SSSB006_AK-Reads-Act_BillText_draftCS-versionG.pdf SEDC 2/12/2020 9:00:00 AM
SB 6