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Opening Statement of Councilmember Grosso

Chairperson, Committee on Education
Committee on Education Hearing on
B22-781, the “Blind Students Literacy and Education Rights Act of 2018”
B22-512, the “Commission on Literacy Establishment Act of 2017” and
“The State of Literacy Efforts”
October 10, 2018

Good morning, I am David Grosso the Chairperson of the Committee on
Education. Today’s public hearing is on B22-0781, the “Blind Students Literacy
and Education Rights Act of 2018,” B22-0512, the “Commission on Literacy
Establishment Act of 2017” and The State of Literacy Efforts.

The Blind Students Literacy and Education Rights Act of 2018 as introduced by
Councilmembers Todd, Nadeau, and Bonds, requires that Individualized
Education Plans for visually impaired or blind students must include instruction in
braille unless it is determined to be inappropriate by the IEP team. It establishes
standards for Braille proficiency and instruction, and it establishes certification
standards for teachers and requires instruction to be available in a computer
accessible format.

The Commission on Literacy Establishment Act of 2017 as introduced by
Councilmembers T. White, Bonds, Cheh, McDuffie, Silverman, R. White, Gray,
and Chairman Mendelson, establishes a Commission on Literacy. The
Commission will develop comprehensive strategy recommendations to address
literacy disparities, provide support to advance literacy organizations, and plan
programming and events related to literacy.

Last year, on the PARCC exam, our standardized test that measures readiness for
college and careers, only 33% of students showed proficiency in literacy. While
we have seen an 8.5% growth since 2015, when DC moved to the rigorous PARCC
Assessment, for many students, that growth is not fast enough.

For our at-risk students, only 18.4% are proficient; for our English learners, only
18.8%. And for our students with disabilities, only 5.7% are proficient.

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When looking at results by race and ethnicity, we see the same story. While white
and Asian students are showing higher rates of literacy, our Black and Latino
students lag far behind.

Reading is the building block for all learning. It opens up doors of opportunities so
that students can imagine a future beyond their community and school.

This is why we have approved $1.6 million for early literacy grant recipients; why
we have fought cuts to and expanded investments in our world class public
library system, including the soon to be modernized MLK Jr. Central Library; and
why we are holding this hearing today

I look forward to the testimony given today and also from our government
witness about their efforts to not just continue the growth, but accelerate that
growth, particularly for our students with the most need.

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