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Arkansas education department searching for LEARNS Act literacy coaches

By: - May 17, 2023 9:44 am

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The Arkansas Department of Education is seeking statewide literacy coaches to help meet literacy standards set in the LEARNS Act, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ sweeping education legislation. 

The literacy coaches will “support teachers and promote evidence-based literacy instruction aligned to the Science of Reading” in kindergarten through third grade classrooms in public schools with a “D” or “F” ranking, according to an ADE memo issued Tuesday evening. 

Under the LEARNS Act, literacy screening will be required for K-3 students, and some students who don’t meet the third-grade reading standard by the 2025-26 school year will not be promoted to 4th grade. 

However, there are exemptions for students with limited English proficiency, disabilities or students who were already retained in kindergarten through third grade. Students who are held back or promoted with a waiver will get at least 90 minutes of literacy instruction every day.

If we don’t better literacy by third grade, we are setting them up for a lifetime of failure,” Sanders said during an April town hall meeting.

In 2022, less than a third of Arkansas fourth graders scored at or above proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Education Progress

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Literacy coach applicants must have a minimum of three years of experience teaching literacy and an active teacher licensure in Arkansas or another state with eligible reciprocity. 

They must also be trained in the Science of Reading, as aligned to Arkansas’ Right to Read Act. Sponsored by former Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott in 2017, the law requires that educators 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.”

Each literacy coach will be assigned a region consisting of one to three schools, and in-state travel will be required, according to the memo.

The anticipated starting salary is $70,000 to $74,000. An Arkansas Legislative Council committee on Tuesday approved the reallocation of $34.7 million in federal recovery funding to support provisions of the LEARNS Act, including $6.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for literacy coaches. 

​​This reallocation of a previously-awarded appropriation must receive final approval by the full Legislative Council, which is scheduled to meet Friday morning. 

The deadline to apply for a literacy coach position is May 31. Applications and more information are available here.


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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.