For the first time, the Reading Sufficiency Act is fully funded by the state.

Last session, the Legislature appropriated $12 million for the 2019-20 school year to the initiative that helps elementary students struggling with reading.

According to Oklahoma Watch, the reading law requires third-graders show they have proficiency in reading or they could be held back. As a result, according to an Oklahoma Watch report, students in the state as young as kindergarten are being held back to give them more time to learn to read.

According to the Reading Sufficiency Act, funds will be distributed to schools for kindergarteners through third-graders who are reading below grade level. The amount per student has been $75, according to Oklahoma Watch, but this next school year the amount will climb to $153 per student.

Each school district can decide how the money is spent and what approach to take. Funding can be directed, according Oklahoma Watch, to salaries for teachers and teaching assistants; before-, after- and summer school programs; instructional materials for reading instruction; screening assessments; and professional development for teachers, paraprofessionals and reading interventionists.

Oklahoma Watch found that teachers think the most effect approaches are reduced student-teacher ratio, daily reading block, intervention reading program, additional in-school instructional time and intensive language and vocabulary instruction.

More than 77,600 students statewide qualify for Reading Sufficiency Act funding, almost 40% of kindergarten through third-grade students.

The percentage of young students reading below grade level has stayed about the same since 2014, but that has been without full funding for the program designed to help them.

With the Reading Sufficiency Act now fully funded, schools finally will have the opportunity to institute the programs they need to help struggling students.

It might take a couple of years to see results, but we are anxious to see what is accomplished.

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