Cassidy Seeks Input on Potential Literacy Legislation
Person reading a book, pexels

In a recent report on literacy issued by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) asks for input from stakeholders on how to improve childhood literacy.  The report notes the consequences of illiteracy – including lost income and increased likelihood of dropping out of high school – and expresses concerns about the implications for global competitiveness and national security.  It also summarizes the recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which shows reading scores are at multi-decade lows, and that the United States is falling behind other nations despite increases in “school spending, staff, and advances in education research and technology.”


The report promotes “the science of reading” as a broad concept, highlighting the importance of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  But it suggests that most teachers use “balanced literacy” methods which encourage students to rely on context cues rather than learn to decode words in a way that prepares them for higher levels of reading.  And the report asserts that teachers and teachers’ unions have “tried to obstruct reforms,” claiming that teachers would prefer to “ignore evidence in favor of expediency,” and “both demand yet resist the need for additional training.” 
The report also blames falling test scores on a new focus on social-emotional learning, which it says “takes away classroom time for academic endeavors,” as well as disciplinary issues and chronic absenteeism.


At the end of the document, Cassidy asks stakeholders for input on how Congress can improve literacy instruction, including asking how existing programs can be improved and what federal actions might hamper progress.  The report asks how individual districts and schools monitor student progress, how student success is tied to a specific literacy teaching method, and how to better prepare parents and students.  Comments may be submitted by email to literacy@help.senate.gov by April 5, 2024.


The report is available here.

About the Author

Julia Martin is an attorney with the Washington, DC law firm The Bruman Group, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA).