Early Literacy Efforts Remain Front and Center in Delaware

March 25th, 2024

Category: Early Childhood Education

At a Glance...

-Delaware lawmakers and education leaders continue to lean into early literacy, a critical benchmark for students.
– The Science of Reading—an evidence-backed body of research on literacy and reading acquisition—remains a focal point of new legislation and educator prep programs.
-Delaware can look outside its border for ideas, including ways to strengthen interventions, tutoring programs, and assessments for teacher candidates.  

Delaware continues to focus on early literacy, a critical benchmark for a child’s educational development, and an area where Delaware (along with most of the nation) has declined in recent years. Recent focus has been on the NAEP scores, which have put Delaware below most other states and well below some of our neighbors, and with one of the steepest drops nationally.

In response, local lawmakers and literacy advocates continue to build on the broader adoption of what’s known as the Science of Reading, an evidence-backed body of research on literacy and reading acquisition.

Delaware has earned national recognition for some of its recent efforts, including from the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University. Check out this video profile of Delaware Delivers: Providing rigorous instruction to all students.

What’s new with Science of Reading?

A new bill, SS 1 for SB 252, has been filed that aims to strengthen teacher preparation by monitoring programs to ensure they are training candidates on Science of Reading techniques. The bill directs the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) to monitor and report on the strength of these approaches in all educator preparation programs as part of the Educator Preparation Report Cards.

This effort builds on several others that aims to strengthen Science of Reading statewide, including SB 133 (from the 151st General Assembly), which required teacher preparation programs that   prepare elementary school, early childhood education, or special education teachers or reading specialists must provide instruction in evidence-based reading instruction. SB 133 also required DDOE to establish a minimum number of hours of training that instructors in educator preparation programs must complete in evidence-based reading instruction.

Gov. John Carney included funding for literacy coaches in his Recommended FY 25 Budget. Embedding state-deployed coaches led by a cohesive state strategy was a key component of Mississippi’s success in improving early literacy.

The DDOE has been focused on implementing the state Literacy Plan and recent legislation related to Science of Reading-aligned teaching and assessment.

What’s next in Delaware

  • This fall, Wilmington University and nonprofit tutoring provider Reading Assist Delaware will launch a new approach to supporting the educator pipeline called Tutors to Teachers.
  • Thanks to private grant funding, the state will partner with Reading Assist to deliver high-dosage tutoring to more K-3 students during the school day.
  • Identifying strong ways to scale models beyond traditional 1:1 in person models, including small groups and virtual tutoring, which are underway in models including Reading Assist and Book Nook in Delaware.


What else should Delaware consider?

As Delaware looks to other states for inspiration, there are policy opportunities to go further including:

  1. Establishing Criteria for Interventions. While Delaware requires interventions for students who struggle with reading and provides guidance to schools on selecting intervention tools, we do not have requirements to adopt interventions grounded in the Science of Reading. And, the state does not have a vetted and approved list of evidence- based interventions for districts to adopt.
  2. Expanding the Pipeline to Scale Tutors.
    1. Leverage federal funding: The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging institutions of higher education to leverage federal work study funds to hire students as teachers and to take advantage of federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) dollars to pay tutors.
    2. Leverage educator preparation programs, starting in high school, to train tutors and ensure they can be paid.
  3. Strengthening Standards and Assessment of Teacher Candidates. Delaware has been critiqued by national organizations including Excel in Ed and the National Center for Teacher Quality because the state’s test does not adequately address all required components of the Science of Reading. About half of states have adopted a strong reading licensure test addressing all five components of the science of reading.


In addition to policy improvements, there are a number of implementation components that Excel in Ed has identified for Delaware, including strengthening requirements for parent notification, creating and monitoring individual reading plans, reinstating summer school requirements, and transparency related to curriculum.

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Madeleine Bayard




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