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Alabama Literacy Act: What you need to know

There has been a lot of buzz about this new "Literacy Act" being implemented in Alabama starting in the 2021-2022 school year. I have been curious to know how this would impact my students since I primarily work with students who have learning disabilities. I found a flow chart issued by Lee County and I will be using it as a reference in this article. Here is the link where I found this information (

From what I have read and researched, there will be more emphasis on implementing intensive, explicit direct instruction techniques to help close the reading gaps for students performing below the average range. The notion is that if students are not reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, they can be retained. There are a few exceptions, but I will get to those soon. I want to first break down the meaning of "explicit direct instruction."

According to the National Center on Intensive Intervention, explicit instruction is when the teacher "selects an important objective, specifies the learning outcome, designs structured instructional experiences, explains directly, models the skill being taught, and provides scaffolded practice to achieve mastery." This is very different from the student-centered/led enrichment approach. In my current position, the objectives are very different. Students are encouraged to "show what they know" without being explicitly taught. I am there to guide them and challenge them by asking higher-order thinking questions and engaging them with what I call, "ambiguous speech." This type of model is not best practice and it is extremely difficult for students performing below the average range in reading to learn the skills needed to be successful with this model. I am thankful that the new explicit instructional approach model will be used to help students, instead of relying on making accommodations to textbooks in the name of remediation reading assistance.

So what are the criteria for promotion to 4th grade? According to the document, students must have:

  • Scores above the lowest achievement level on an approved assessment taken

  • For students on the alternative achievement route, they must earn an acceptable score on an alternative standardized reading assessment

  • Students following state standards must demonstrate mastery on all 3rd-grade reading standards as evidenced in their portfolio or qualifies for an exemption

If students have an IEP or 504 plan and have participated in an intensive reading intervention program for more than two years and still demonstrate reading deficiencies, as well as if they were detained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade, then they could qualify for an exemption. The literacy act states that students will not be retained more than twice in kindergarten- third grade. The local superintendent can still reject a good cause exemption if one is provided, so just keep that in mind.

One good thing about the passing of this bill is the level of accountability that is going to be demanded on principals, teachers, reading coaches, Tier instructors, students, and parents of students in elementary school. I have written several blog posts about the illiteracy rate and how it is truly an epidemic. There is a direct link between illiteracy and a whole slew of physical, financial, and social mishaps.

I still have a lot of questions that I hope to get answered in my professional developments and staff meetings prior to the 2021-2022 school year. I want to know will there be school-approved content that meets the explicit direct instruction criteria? Who will be doing the remediation instruction? A reading coach? A RTI teacher? A special Education Teacher? When will the interventions take place? If these interventions can't take the place of the curriculum provided per grade level, when will there be time for interventions to take place without pulling students from other desired activities? Is this just an updated Tier 2 or Tier 3 model?

So now you may be wondering what you can do to be proactive? I can help with that! Holmes Tutoring utilizes comprehensive reading programs designed to bridge reading gaps. The explicit and systematic direct instruction model is used as well as direct instruction content. Students take baseline assessments prior to beginning tutoring interventions. This way tutors know the present level of performance in a certain area. The reading programs and teaching model is teacher-led and students are given modeled examples before being expected to answer. I use DI content because it works! I am in the process of working with a new reading app that will be launching soon and will have access to a paid subscription to use with all future students at Holmes Tutoring, at no extra cost! Make sure to subscribe to the website for updates. I will be offering a series of summer camps this summer to help students retain information before moving on to the next grade level. I hope to see your child at camp!

Click the link to learn more about direct instruction:

Click the link to read my blog on illiteracy:

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