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“Literacy is a Civil Right”: Project Baltimore Story Prompts Legislation

“Literacy is a Civil Right”: Project Baltimore Story Prompts Legislation

BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- A Project Baltimore report has prompted a push for change in Annapolis. Legislation has been introduced that mandates public school students by third grade, read at grade level. No such state law currently exists.

Carroll County Republican Delegate Susan Krebs sponsored the bill after watching a Project Baltimore story with Michelle Bradley, a Baltimore City woman who made it to ninth grade in City Schools, but can’t read.

“I know it’s easy to judge me. But until you walk a mile in my shoes, it’s very embarrassing,” Bradley told Project Baltimore earlier this year.

After seeing Bradley’s interview on FOX45, Krebs and was so moved she wanted the entire House Ways and Means Committee to watch it as she introduced legislation to help ensure this doesn’t happen to another generation of students.

“I think literacy is a civil right,” Del. Krebs told Project Baltimore.

In Carroll County, fifteen years ago, Krebs helped draft and pass a reading policy which mandates every student in third grade must read at grade level.

Krebs says that policy has been a success, which the numbers seem to support. Project Baltimore analyzed state testing data and found, last year, 40 percent of third graders statewide tested proficient in English Language Arts. Carroll County is around 51 percent and increasing faster than the state average.

3rd Grade, English Language Arts, Proficiency

2017 2016 2015

State: 40% 37% 38%

Carroll County: 51% 47% 47%

Source: Maryland State Department of Education

Krebs attributes much of that success to the county’s reading policy, which she would like the entire state to now adopt.

“Reading is the very heart of education, and without literacy our students cannot be successful,” Krebs said during the committee hearing.

So, with Bradley as her motivation, Krebs recently introduced House Bill 1311. Similar to Carroll County, it creates a statewide reading policy which mandates every Maryland third grader must read at, or above, grade level before moving to fourth grade, with a few exceptions like English Language Learners.

“Students who are not reading proficiently in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school,” said Del. Krebs at the hearing.

The Delegate went on to tell Project Baltimore that “to sort of solve a problem, you first have to admit that you have one, and we have one.”

House Bill 1311 is still in Committee, but a similar bill has passed out of the House, which Krebs supports. Critics of the bill favor reading policies on a county level due to differences in demographics across the state.

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