Louisiana education leaders look to improve child literacy

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s education leaders are working on plans aimed at improving reading skills for the state’s youngest students, hoping to reverse years of neglect that has stifled education achievement for decades.

The Advocate reports that students from kindergarten through second grade have long been absent from Louisiana’s accountability system. The state’s focus on improving public schools has long centered on third graders and older.

“We have to give K-2 more attention,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said in an interview.

Thousands of the state’s youngest students are unable to read on grade level, which has devastating consequences as they move from grade to grade.

“This is the foundation of education,” said Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the state’s two teacher unions. “At that level students are learning to read so they can ultimately read to learn.”

A state report earlier this year said only 43% of kindergarten students were reading on grade level, 54% of first graders, 56% of second graders and 53% of third graders.

The data is even more alarming when noting racial disparities. While 52% of white kindergarten students are reading at or above grade level, only 36% of black students do so, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Education.

Nearly 161,000 public school students are enrolled in the three grades under scrutiny.

Tackling the issue of literacy among K-2 students was the highlight in a series of proposed sweeping changes that Brumley outlined to two groups last week that advise the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Both groups endorsed the push to address the issue.

Brigitte Nieland, director of government affairs for the…