State Board of Education member talks ‘Science of Reading’ in Avon

Joyce Rankin is invited by Republican Matt Solomon, who is running for state Senate seat

Colorado Board of Education member Joyce Rankin talked Friday to a small group at the Avon Public Library about the "Science of Reading" and state efforts to implement those ideas.
ScottMiller/Vail Daily

Educational trends come and go. The “Science of Reading” may stick around for a while.

Colorado State Board of Education member Joyce Rankin was in Avon Friday to give a presentation about the ideas behind the science of reading to a small group at the Avon Public Library.

Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, represents the 3rd Congressional District, which this year includes just a small sliver of Eagle County. She was invited to Avon by fellow Republican Matt Solomon, who this year is running for the Colorado Senate in District 8.

How we got here

2012: The Colorado Legislature passed the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) act

2019: The Colorado Legislature passed a law to support implementation of the act by providing teacher training and requiring every school that receives state money for reading development meet accountability standards.

Rankin, who has had a long career in elementary education, gave the group a quick look at the history of the ideas behind the science of reading, and an overview of what’s happening in elemenetary schools across the state.

Rankin noted that the science of reading is a research and evidence-based method to get young students reading at grade level or better.

Support Local Journalism

The state made a start in the direction of the idea with the 2012 Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act.

Rankin noted that the bill gave school districts money to establish their own programs, but without any accountability pieces. A 2019 bill, co-sponsored by Rankin’s husband, Bob, a state senator, fixed that piece.

Under the law, every educator teaching kindergarten through third grade must have at least 45 hours of instruction in the science of reading.

The Colorado Department of Education offers the training for free, and Rankin said some school districts pay their teachers for the time they spend in training.

Rankin noted that there’s no single provider for science of reading training. But, she added,  program called “LETRS” is the “gold standard” in the field.

Teachers were required by Aug. 1 to upload proof they’ve completed the training. Bob Rankin, who attended the session, noted that roughly 17,000 of the state’s approximately 20,000 lower-grade teachers have complied with that requirement.

Joyce Rankin acknowledged that teaching kids in scientific reading methods can be difficult. It requires 90 minutes per day of training.

“You’re assessing all the time how each student is learning (or not),” Rankin said. “It’s not easy, and it takes time, but you get better at it the more you do it.

Systems can include kids reading to each other, and there are other, more fun, exercises.

“If it’s used, we’re going to see a lot of changes,” Rankin said.

She noted that one of the state’s smaller districts implemented a program soon after the passage of the READ Act. Those students’ reading scores went up in every elementary grade, including kindergarten.

Since the district has a stable student population, Rankin said state officials are using the program as an example of how the system works.

Audience member Addison Hobbs asked Rankin about students who speak languages other than English.

Rankin replied that most of the science of reading work is done in English. That means students “have to work very hard” to keep up.

Bob Rankin noted that the 2019 bill had support from virtually every piece of the state’s political spectrum.

Solomon said the science of reading “is an example of how everything should be working if we put our boxes aside … There’s something the rest of us can learn here.”

Support Local Journalism