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State Spotlight: K-3 Literacy Climbs in Arizona

• Cari Miller

In 2010, state lawmakers approved legislation called Move on When Reading (MOWR) in the Grand Canyon state. Led first by the Arizona State Board of Education, and then by the Arizona Department of Education, the $45 million statewide program was fully implemented in 2013 and designed to provide a comprehensive approach to K-3 literacy learning ensuring all students read on grade level by the end of third grade. Starting as early as kindergarten, teachers and administrators focus on identifying students with reading difficulties and provide those students with specialized supports and interventions to address their specific reading needs to ensure they are on track toward grade level reading. MOWR also ensures third grade students demonstrate sufficient reading skills for promotion to fourth grade.

In 2018, Arizona lawmakers gave final approval to several improvements to the MOWR law. Highlights of HB 2520, sponsored by Representative Doug Coleman include:

  • Strong emphasis on the use of evidence-based strategies to support K-3 students identified with reading difficulties
  • Strengthens teacher training requirements for reading instruction
  • Ensures early literacy funds are used in targeted ways to expand, enhance and support the components of a school’s reading plan

The small but mighty Arizona Department of Education’s MOWR team has been working diligently to put these policy improvements into practice. And their work is paying off! Arizona third graders are making progress. Since 2015, there has been a steady climb in proficiency.

It is so exciting to continue to witness Arizona principals, teachers and students’ hard work continue to pay off. Keep it up Arizona!

About the author

Cari Miller

Cari Miller serves as Policy Director of Early Literacy for ExcelinEd. She works hand in hand with states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy, and she supports state departments with effective policy implementation. Cari is a former elementary teacher and reading coach. She also served as the Deputy Director of Just Read, Florida!, Governor Jeb Bush’s statewide literacy initiative. At Just Read, Florida!, she served in other capacities, including: Elementary Reading Specialist, Director of Reading First and Director of Elementary Reading. Her sole mission is to improve student reading achievement across the nation.