The Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5946 was passed by the Washington state Legislature in 2013. Key components of the bill focus on early literacy programming for beginning readers, adoption of rigorous instructional and assessment strategies proven to help all struggling learners, and an integration of best practices and strategies to help K-4 students as well as low-achieving students in grades K-12. The bill required the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to convene an English language arts (ELA) panel of experts. This panel has developed a menu of best practices and strategies to help students in grades K–4, as well as low-achieving students in grades K–12 served by the state’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP), to improve their ELA performance. The menu will be reviewed and updated yearly.
The regional K-4 Literacy Coordinators will assist schools and districts in collecting data on students’ reading levels and in using data to intervene early for maximum student success. School districts in Washington are expected to use practices from this menu starting with the 2015-16 school year. For any student who received a score of basic or below basic on the third grade student state assessment in English/Language Arts in the previous school year (Spring, 2015), the district must implement an intensive reading and literacy improvement strategy from the ELA Best Practices and Strategies Menu. Any school where more than 40% of their tested third grade students received a score of basic or below basic on the 3rd grade ELA student assessment the previous year, must implement an intensive reading literacy improvement strategy for all students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
How this will relate to the currently disputed issue of linking teacher evaluations to student test performance here in Washington remains to be seen. Arne Duncan, Federal Education Secretary, wants states to use student test performance as one of several measures to rate teachers. However, this February, a bill that would have required the performance of students on state tests to be a part of educators’ evaluations failed in the Washington State Senate by a vote of 28-19.