The Louisiana Department of Education is moving ahead with a summer literacy program aimed at getting students who are struggling with reading comprehension back on track. The new LDOE policy was approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in a Wednesday vote.

Which Children Could Qualify?

The program is aimed at third and fourth graders who "score behind grade level on reading on an end-of-year screener," LDOE said in a release Wednesday. If a student scores below level, they will have to receive 30 additional hours of "focused literacy instruction during the summer by a teacher trained in the science of reading."

A New End Of Year Test?

The new program will not be an end-of-year test like the LEAP test or other standardized tests, but instead will be a screening akin to those already used in the school system, and it will measure whether a student is above, at, or below their grade level in reading. If they score below level, they will be given the option to attend 30 hours of summer literacy training in order to get back on track. However, if the student opts out of the summer program, they could face retention.

The policy is currently active for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

"Students not on reading level and who do not participate in the summer program may be retained," LDOE announced, "or, instead of retention, receive other means of support as determined by school officials and parents."

Parishes like Lafayette use the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) screening. LDOE is also working on a statewide screener.

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What They're Saying

The board voted unanimously to approve the new policy, which has been pushed heavily by Dr. Cade Brumley, Louisiana's Superintendent of Education.

  • Dr. Cade Brumley, State Superintendent: “I’m most concerned about this year’s third and fourth graders. Their foundational school years were disrupted more than any other cohort and we must be all-hands-on-deck for their recovery. This measure focuses additional support for these students and is another step in the right direction.”
  • Michael Melerine BESE Member District 4: “Literacy is the basis for all learning, and as we work to create positive educational outcomes for Louisiana students, it is critical to provide struggling readers with a path to improvement. The summer literacy intervention policy approved by the Board today gives schools and parents another tool to boost reading skills, address learning loss, and help ensure that all of our students are on track for academic success.”
  • Dr. Holly Boffy, BESE Member District 7: "I believe it's important to get support to these students. Our board acted because there were two grade levels of students who experienced more interrupted learning [during the pandemic]. However, the research on retention is that it has a negative impact. My hope is that the school systems will put in place the interventions needed to prevent that retention."

How Will Lafayette Respond?

The program will be paid for using pandemic funds given to the state. That funding is vital, as an expansion of summer school to include literacy programs will require significant funding to pay teachers, use buildings, and offset other costs. With COVID-19 shutting down schools in the spring of 2020 and forcing districts to change their schedules in 2021, districts all over the country did see significant learning loss.

In the summer of 2021, the Lafayette Parish School System expanded its summer school program using similar pandemic funding. LPSS may then be in better position than most to handle a sudden influx of new students to the summer school program. But the district has also been plagued by lockdowns and other disruptions that have impacted learning time in recent weeks, an issue the district will likely seek to address before it goes about planning for a new end-of-year test.

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