Literacy Legislation in the New ESSA Law
On Dec 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) which replaced the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) of 2002.
There are a number of key changes in the new law. Here at Keys to Literacy we are most interested in the LEARN part of the legislation: Literacy Education For All, Results for the Nation.
The program addresses reading and writing instruction across ALL grades and ages – i.e., birth through grade 12. The program is designed to improve students’ academic achievement in reading and writing by providing federal support to states to develop, revise, or update comprehensive literacy instruction plans. This includes providing professional development opportunities for teachers, literacy specialists, English as second language specialists, and administrators. It also authorizes all local grants to provide time for teachers and other staff to meet to plan comprehensive literacy instruction.
Under LEARN, states and districts must allocate no less than 15 percent of LEARN funds for students in ages 0 to 5, no less than 40 percent of funds for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, and no less than 40 percent for students in 6th through 12th grades. The emphasis on secondary literacy instruction is long overdue! The new bill gives states flexibility in how they use federal funds to improve literacy instruction.
The new bill also authorizes the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program which allows the education secretary to award grants and contracts on a competitive basis to promote literacy programs in low-income areas. This may include enhancing effective school library programs.
LEARN has been introduced as separate legislation in the past, most recently last February, 2015 by Representatives Yarmuth from Kentucky and Polis from Colorado. The Advocates for Literacy Coalition, a group of 64 organizations devoted to improving literacy education, has been lobbying for this legislation, and the International Literacy Association recently sent a letter to legislators considering the LEARN part of ESSA that “literacy is indispensable for academic success in all areas of schooling and at all ages.”
To learn more about LEARN and ESSA:
- Alliance for Excellent Education – 4 minute video overview of the legislation
- Education Week – “How Literacy Programs and School Libraries Fare Under New Federal Bill”