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Florida lawmakers want to improve teacher training to aid struggling readers



A proposal moving in the Florida House would require better training for teachers and district and school administrators in order to help students improve their reading skills, especially during their elementary school years.

House Bill 7021 -- the product of the House K-12 Subcommittee, led by Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach -- would include $345,000 in state funding to the Florida Department of Education to help the Just Read, Florida! Office implement the mandates of the legislation.

Among the bill's requirements, the state must:

-- train "highly effective" reading coaches

-- train K-12 teachers and principals on "effective content-area-specific reading strategies"

-- provide technical assistance to help school districts develop and implement plans "for use of research-based reading instruction"

-- develop a handbook to assist parents whose children have difficulty reading

-- periodically review state standards for reading at all grade levels

Florida law already requires school districts to identify and help struggling readers, but the bill lawmakers are considering for 2016 builds on that by creating a more rigorous framework to ensure teachers are better trained to recognize a struggling reader and help them early on in their elementary school years.

Citing a study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Adkins said 88 percent of students who fail to graduate high school were struggling readers in third grade.

"When you think about the fundamental skill we need to be focused on teaching our students, it's the skill of reading," Adkins said Tuesday, when the bill unanimously passed the House education budget committee. "For children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, science shows these children can learn to read; we just need to catch up the practices of what's happening in the classroom with the science."

The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Photo credit: Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach. The Florida Channel