June 28, 2006
Director of Communications
Public Information Officer
Virginia Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge today announced the formation of a special committee on literacy to develop strategies to raise the level of literacy of children, adolescents, and adults in the Commonwealth. The committee includes Board members Isis Castro, who will serve as chair, and Dr. Thomas Brewster. Other Board members also will participate.
The committee will consider ways to:
- Increase the number of students reading on grade level by the third grade;
- Sustain literacy and a love of reading among students as they move from the elementary-school environment to middle school and high school;
- Assist limited English proficient (LEP) students in obtaining an education; and
- Strengthen literacy programs and policies for adult learners.
“Success in our society and economy requires an ever-higher level of literacy,” said Dr. Emblidge. “The Board’s literacy committee will monitor the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s efforts and recommend policies to increase literacy for Virginia’s citizens.”
The committee will review data and monitor the progress of the Commonwealth’s public schools and adult education programs in addressing literacy at all levels. The committee also will advise the Board on issues and policy considerations related to the instruction and assessment of limited English proficient (LEP) students.
“Literacy is the foundation for student achievement in all subject areas,” said Mrs. Castro. “We must ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the third grade and that they continue to build on their reading skills throughout their academic careers.”
Last year, approximately 26 percent of Virginia’s third-grade students were unable to demonstrate proficiency on the Standards of Learning (SOL) reading tests and required remedial instruction. The potential impact of effective reading instruction on future literacy is illustrated by a Virginia Department of Education analysis that showed approximately 95 percent of students who pass the grade-3 SOL reading test go on to pass the grade-5 reading test as well.
In Virginia, more than 1 million adults do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, limiting their earnings potential. During 2004-2005, more than 25,000 adults with below ninth-grade-level English literacy were enrolled in Adult Basic Education or English for Speakers of Other Languages programs throughout Virginia, and nearly 70,000 LEP students were enrolled in Virginia public schools. The literacy committee will receive reports on the effectiveness of all state-level reading programs and initiatives and advise the full Board.
Among the literacy committee’s first tasks will be a review of proposed revisions in the state’s Standards for English Language Proficiency and a review of issues related to the instruction and assessment of LEP students.