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Colorado Moving Ahead on Early-Literacy Bill

Colorado lawmakers have moved a step closer to strengthening the state's early literacy program in lower elementary grades, including making sure that 3rd graders are proficient readers before advancing to 4th grade.

The House Education Committee voted 10 to 3 Monday to pass the bill known as the Colorado Early Literacy Act, which would overhaul early literacy requirements for kindergarten through 3rd grade, according to an Education News Colorado report.

The bill establishes state standards for a "minimum reading competency skill level" for each of the early grades and requires schools to begin assessing students in those grades and diagnosing students' specific reading-skill deficiencies.

Students with skills deficiencies could be held back beginning in 2013-2014. Teachers, parents, and other personnel would jointly determine if those students should advance to the next grade level the following school year.

For 3rd-graders whose reading skills don't measure up, the decision whether to advance would require permission from the school district's superintendent.

Schools would be required to provide literacy support and intervention for those students deemed deficient.

According to the bill, "if the student still has a significant reading deficiency at the end of the school year, state law recommends that the student not advance to the next grade level, and the teacher and parent and potentially other personnel of the local education provider will decide whether the student will advance."

Lawmakers had backed off an earlier provision requiring retention of 3rd graders who didn't meet grade-level proficiency, but Monday's seven-hour committee hearing seemed to indicate that it continues to be a hot-button issue.

The bill, which is supported by some education reform and business groups, now moves on to the Colorado House's appropriations committee.

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