During the ongoing special session convened to accomplish court-ordered redistricting, members of the House and Senate Education committees met to hear an update on implementation of literacy initiatives and changes to completion special schools.
Amy Denty, director of literacy at the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), provided information on HB 538, the Georgia Early Literacy Act, and SB 211, which established the Georgia Council on Literacy. Both bills became law earlier this year. Denty outlined literacy-related deadlines mandated by HB 538 and state efforts to meet those deadlines. She referenced recent release of the Georgia Council on Literacy’s report. Noting overlap between approved literacy screeners and dyslexia screeners, Denty also reported GaDOE is developing a free literacy screener, which she predicted will be ready by the Aug. 1 deadline. Denty reminded legislators that HB 538 requires school districts to administer literacy screeners starting in the 2023-2024 school year and reported many school districts are already doing so.
The Early Literacy Act also requires schools to develop literacy intervention plans for struggling readers. Denty expressed hope that schools, which are already required to have multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) frameworks in place, will use the MTSS process to develop required intervention plans.
Denty reported GaDOE has launched the Georgia Literacy Academy, which supports teacher training in the science of reading and provides structured literacy coaching. Relatedly, the department is working with the Rollins Center to sponsor a literacy conference in June. Denty also mentioned GaDOE’s Office of Rural Education and Innovation has supported the literacy training of more than 2,300 educators across 15 regional education service agencies (RESAs).
Before closing, Denty outlined GaDOE legislative priorities related to literacy:
Grow the teacher pipeline by expanding the existing return-to-work law to include retired teachers with dyslexia endorsements or dyslexia endorsement as a sate-wide high-need subject area
Sustain screener delivery and expand coaching by supporting a tiered delivery model that grows capacity at the regional, district, school, and classroom levels
Provide SPLOST flexibility by expanding the allowable use of SPLOST funds to include software, subscriptions, and other digital resources
Completion Special School Report
Curtis Jones, a consultant with GaDOE and superintendent in residence with the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association, provided an update on HB 87, which passed during the 2023 legislative session and directs reform at Coastal Plains High School, Foothills Regional High School, and Mountain Education Charter High School. Jones reported enrollment has dropped at the three schools, noting Coastal Plains declined from 1,700 to 600 students. He attributed this drop to several factors, including a mismatch between enrollment authorization and compulsory student attendance age.
Encouragingly, Jones outlined plans for a new completion special school in southwest Georgia, which is currently advertising for a superintendent. He expressed hope that the school can open next year but noted challenges remain, including identifying a host school district in the region.
At the conclusion of GaDOE presentations, brief question and answer ensued, but no formal action was taken.
Tuesday, Dec. 5 - Special Legislative Session Day 5
Wednesday, Dec. 6 - Special Legislative Session Day 6
Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committees - GaDOE Presentation at 4:45 p.m. - 341 CAP