Like many states across the country, Arkansas education officials have looked for ways in recent years to strengthen literacy among its young learners.

According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 31 percent of fourth-graders in the state were proficient in reading. That number dropped to 27 percent among eighth-graders, ranking Arkansas in the lower third of reading scores when compared to other states. And, while ACT data showed 48.6 percent of students in grades 3-10 were proficient in English language arts, only 39 percent of graduating seniors in the state met critical reading benchmarks on the ACT.

To boost those numbers, in 2017, lawmakers passed the Right to Read Act.

Among several stipulations of the law is the requirement that all teachers must demonstrate knowledge and skill in science-based literacy instruction. Specifically, that: “By the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year: A) All teachers employed in a teaching position that requires an elementary education (K-6) license or special education (K-12) license shall demonstrate proficiency in knowledge and practices of scientific reading instruction; and B) All other teachers shall demonstrate awareness in knowledge and practices of scientific reading instruction.”

From the Right to Read Act grew R.I.S.E — an initiative aimed at helping educators achieve those literacy instruction benchmarks, as well as foster an overall culture of reading throughout the state. The program provides pathways for teachers who must meet certain requirements and serves as a resource for teachers, parents and communities to learn more about the importance of literacy.

Through R.I.S.E, the Arkansas Department of Education seeks to:

  1. Increase the number of students in grades 3-8 who meet the ACT Aspire reading readiness benchmark by 10% within 3 years.
  2. Rise above the bottom third in state comparisons within 5 years on the 4th-grade NAEP reading assessment, and
  3. Increase the number of graduates meeting The ACT reading readiness benchmark by 10% within 5 years

Within R.I.S.E, Arkansas education officials established different pathways for teachers who, by via the Right to Read Act, must “demonstrate proficiency or awareness in scientific reading instruction.”

That’s where the power of IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham comes in.

The Arkansas Department of Education selected IMSE as a professional development partner for Phase 1 of its Pathway I tract, which includes completion of IMSE’s Comprehensive Training program, in addition to instruction on the science of reading and phonemic awareness.

“We’re excited to extend our reach in Arkansas and continue to work with the incredible educators in the state,” said IMSE Training Consultant Helen Brandon. “Our staff, together with key Arkansas administrators, worked diligently to get this approved because we all believe in IMSE’s mission of providing teachers with the knowledge and tools to promote individual reading excellence.”

All teachers who require a K-6 elementary licence or a K-12 special education license must prove their proficiency and knowledge in reading instruction by completing both phases of a Pathway — including math, science and social studies teachers. Educators outside the core subjects, such as PE, art and music, as well as counselors and administrators, must show an understanding of the science of reading.

IMSE’s Pathway is recommended by the state for K-6 teachers, and K-12 special education teachers, and fulfills the requirement for practice in science-based literacy instruction.

“Our training programs continue to be quality-driven, with the end goal of helping every child be a successful reader in school and beyond,” Brandon said.