The Return of Texas Reading Academies

Over the past few years reading scores for students in Texas have remained stagnant. Student demographics have changed, and there has not been a consistent focus on the best approach to teaching reading. Texas is not the only state seeing this trend. However, Texas is again taking a leadership role in addressing the issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed Senate Bill 925 which establishes literacy achievement academies to provide high-quality, face-to-face professional development to public school teachers who instruct students in kindergarten through third grade. Championed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, SB 925 is the first piece of legislation responsive to Governor Abbott’s early education emergency item to reach his desk for signature.

In signing the bill, Gov. Abbott noted: “Our children must first learn to read before they can then read to learn, and I applaud the Legislature for recognizing the importance of providing our teachers with the tools necessary to improve literacy instruction by passing SB 925. These literacy achievement academies will serve as a catalyst in the transformation of our state’s early education system, and ensure generations of Texas students will receive the highest quality education possible during their critical early learning years.”

I echo the Governor’s excitement behind the return of our reading academies. TEA had included this initiative in our agency’s legislative appropriation request before the session began. The reason behind this push is simple. Previous reading academies were shown to have a positive impact on reading scores. We are ready to bring the promise of SB 925 to fruition by updating the professional development content for our teachers, aligning it with the structure and content of the recently released writing initiative, and by creating quality online alternatives for teachers who may not be able to attend face‐to‐face academies.

Of all the skills taught in our classrooms, none is more important than the ability to read – and to read effectively. Regardless of whatever path students eventually choose for their life, success will depend on the ability to read. I applaud the efforts of Gov. Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature in recognizing the need to strengthen and support literacy efforts in our earliest grades.

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams