Gov. Evers signs bill aimed at improving literacy outcomes for kids statewide

Gov. Tony Evers signed six bills yesterday, including Assembly Bill 321, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 20, which relates to literacy and was drafted in coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to make several comprehensive updates to literacy instruction in the state designed to help improve reading and literacy outcomes for K–12 students. 

2023 Wisconsin Act 20 creates an Office of Literacy to be known as the Wisconsin Reading Center at DPI. The act also: 

  • Creates the Council on Early Literacy Curricula, which will include nine members nominated by the state superintendent, speaker of the Assembly, and the senate majority leader and will meet annually to make recommendations to DPI that are then submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance for passive review; 
  • Creates a literacy coaching program through which the Office of Literacy would assign 64 contracted literacy coaches to traditional public schools, independent charter schools, and private schools participating in the choice program to provide support to administrators, school-based literacy coaches, principals, and teachers; 
  • Creates grants to cover 50% of the costs of purchasing approved curriculum and instructional materials; 
  • Prohibits the use of instruction or materials that contain the “three-cueing” method of literacy instruction, defined as any model that teaches a student to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues or memory, beginning in the 2024–25 school years; 
  • Increases the frequency of screening and diagnostic reading assessments and prescribes specific interventions, including the creation of personal literacy plans that identify specific skill deficiencies, provide goals and benchmarks of progress, and describe additional services; and 
  • Requires changes in how educators are prepared to teach reading, including prohibiting the state superintendent from approving a teacher preparatory program unless the program prepares a teacher to teach using science-based early literacy instruction and does not incorporate three-cueing and requiring certain educators to take the Lexia Learning Systems LLC, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) or another program endorsed by the Center for Effective Reading Instruction and that is offered by the Leadership in Literacy Institute or a provider that meets specified criteria.