Georgia Governor Kemp Allocates $11.3 Million to Transform Literacy Education

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has proposed a budget allocating $11.3 million to enhance literacy education in the state. The initiative aims to provide literacy coaches to train teachers in improving reading instruction. However, concerns have been raised by some lawmakers, asserting that the Georgia Department of Education needs to do more to implement a literacy law passed last year.

Georgia is relatively new to literacy reform, with a law passed in the previous year requiring every district to retrain teachers by August 2025. The law draws inspiration from Mississippi’s decade-long effort, which significantly improved reading scores. Notably, Mississippi modeled its approach on the successful literacy reforms in Florida.

A substantial portion of Georgia’s young students lag behind in reading proficiency, with the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress reporting that 32% of fourth graders were proficient in reading. State Superintendent Richard Woods emphasizes a different measure, indicating that just over 40% of third-grade students are ready. The state aims to address these challenges through Governor Kemp’s proposed budget.

In the budget, Governor Kemp allocates $6.2 million for literacy coaches and over $5 million for a screening test to identify dyslexia and other issues as early as kindergarten. This financial commitment, recommended by Superintendent Woods, represents a significant step in implementing the literacy law.

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While experts agree on the importance of effective teaching methods, Georgia’s 181 school districts have autonomy in shaping their courses. The lack of close tracking by the Georgia Department of Education raises questions about whether some districts have yet to implement reforms. A survey by the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy aims to provide insights into this matter.

Some lawmakers express dissatisfaction, suggesting that the Department of Education should do more to champion literacy plans. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery criticizes the department for not fully embracing the legislature’s literacy plan.

Despite online training classes provided by the department, questions arise about the effectiveness of such efforts, especially considering Georgia’s large number of K-3 teachers. Mississippi’s successful retraining of all existing teachers over two summers serves as a benchmark, indicating the potential cost for Georgia’s extensive retraining efforts.

The allocated coaching funds aim to hire 32 regional coaches and provide stipends to school district personnel leading literacy efforts. Coaching is considered essential for translating learning into practical teaching methods. The move towards regional coaches seeks to bring consistency and standardization to coaching methods, addressing concerns about the effectiveness of current literacy coaches in the state.

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As Georgia endeavors to address literacy challenges, the proposed budget represents a crucial step in reshaping the education landscape. However, ongoing debates among lawmakers indicate that further legislative actions might be on the horizon.

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