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Georgia Council on Literacy - August 2023 Meeting

Georgia Literacy Council Meets in Statesboro

The first substantive meeting of the Georgia Council on Literacy occurred Aug. 7 at Georgia Southern University (GSU) in Statesboro. Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) welcomed council members along with local school system representatives, education advocates, and other attendees. Burns’ wife Dayle, a retired Effingham County Schools educator and member of the GSU College of Education Board of Advisors, encouraged the group to follow data to improve Georgia literacy instruction.

The thirty-member council includes legislators, educators from K-12 and higher education, and other experts:

  • Chairman Scott Johnson, Principal of Southern Strategic Solutions, LLC

  • Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer)

  • Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta)

  • Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin)

  • Rep. Becky Evans (D-Atlanta)

  • Rep. AI Williams (D-Midway)

  • Dr. Yancey Ford – Superintendent, Effingham County Schools

  • Dr. Whit Meyers – Member, Screven County Board of Education

  • Carlette Fulcher – Teacher, Rincon Elementary

  • Jeanne Seaver – Literacy Advocate

  • Senator Clint Dixon (R–Buford) – Chairman, Senate Education and Youth

  • Senator Billy Hickman (R–Statesboro) – Chairman, Senate Higher Education

  • Senator Blake Tillery (R–Vidalia) – Chairman, Senate Appropriations

  • Senator Jason Esteves (D–Atlanta)

  • Senator Freddie Powell Sims (D–Dawson)

  • Katie Bennett, Teacher

  • Jaillene Hunter, Board of Education Member, Marietta City Schools

  • Dr. Bubba Longgrear, Superintendent, Candler County Schools

  • Malcolm Mitchell, Literacy Advocate

  • Dr. Gary Bingham, Professor at Georgia State University

  • Dr. Stan DeJarnett, Vice Chair of the State Board of Education

  • Amy Denty, Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) Director of Literacy

  • Kelly McKay, Assistant Superintendent, Rabun County Schools

  • Lindee Morgan, Executive Director of the Sandra Dunnagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy

  • Andri Pilgrim, EIP Teacher and Title I Coordinator, Bremen City Schools

  • Dr. Noris Price, Superintendent, Baldwin County Schools

  • Katie Seymore, Instructional Coach, Putnam County Primary School

  • Julie Walker, State Librarian of Georgia

  • Dr. Stephanie Westhafer, Teacher, West Jackson Elementary School

  • Ellen Wiley, Board of Trustees for Athens Academy, the Atlanta Speech School, and Trinity School

Science of Reading, Teacher Training, & Progress Monitoring

After an introduction of council members, Ryan Lee-James from the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy provided an overview of the science of reading and cited teacher preparation as the reason for low literacy rates. She cautioned against the Whole Language literacy approach, and said context clues, guessing, and repetition strategies do not help students successfully decode words. Lee-James explained that while it was once believed that the science of reading primarily benefited dyslexic students, experts now know that all students can benefit from this approach.

She emphasized that options for teacher training should be job embedded to ensure that learning and practicing science of reading is part of the educator workday. Lee-James cautioned council members about lag time between implementation of reading instruction changes and standardized test scores. She advised the group to put the right monitoring in place to track the Literacy Council’s progress.

Universal Screeners & Implementation Timeline

Amy Denty provided an overview of the Georgia Early Literacy Act, HB 538, instructional materials, universal screeners, targeted intervention, professional learning, and teacher preparation.

About universal screeners, Denty told fellow council members that screeners must measure foundational literacy skills and characteristics of dyslexia. She mentioned that work on the screeners has already started, and a list has been approved by the State Board of Education

Local Perspective, Group Discussion, & Next Steps

Charles Wilson, superintendent of Bulloch County Schools, described district efforts to improve literacy instruction and cautioned council members from blaming teachers for needed changes to literacy instruction.

Paul Brooksher, superintendent of Bryan County School, also emphasized this point and stressed that no matter what programs schools adopt, they will not be successful without teachers.

After a working lunch and table discussions facilitated by First District RESA focused on improving literacy in the southeast Georgia region, the meeting adjourned.

Statewide literacy coordinator Miranda Williams indicated that literacy council working group meetings are planned for September. The larger council is expected to reconvene October 17 at Kennesaw State University.  


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