For Immediate Release - October 31, 2013

Patrick Administration Announces First Meeting of Early Literacy Expert Panel to Help Close Achievement Gaps in Reading and Get All Students to Proficiency By Grade 3

Expert panel will develop plan to streamline literacy efforts in MA and ensure all students have access to high quality literacy opportunities

BOSTON –Thursday, October 30, 2013 – Secretary of Education Matthew Malone today joined education and advocacy organization leaders at the first meeting of the Early Literacy Expert Panel, which will make recommendations to the Departments of Early Education and Care, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Higher Education on better aligning and coordinating current initiatives and improving the implementation of programs to ultimately get every student in the Commonwealth reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

“By investing in early literacy, we are providing children with a foundation for future academic and economic success,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “This panel is an important step in closing the achievement gap and increasing growth and opportunity for all students in the Commonwealth no matter their zip code."

In September 2012, Governor Patrick signed “An Act relative to third grade reading proficiency,” which in addition to strengthening and streamlining literacy initiatives in the Commonwealth, established an expert literacy panel, co-chaired by Secretary of Education Matthew Malone and an outside expert of children’s early language and literacy development. The Patrick Administration has set a goal of reading proficiency by the 3rd grade for every child in Massachusetts and this bill has advanced efforts to provide students with high quality literacy opportunities starting in their earliest years. 

The panel is comprised of nine members who will make recommendations on areas including: literacy curricula; effective instructional practices to promote children’s language and literacy development in early education and care programs and grades pre-kindergarten to third grade; pre-service and in-service professional development and training for educators on language and literacy development; developmentally appropriate screening and assessment to monitor and report on children’s progress toward achieving benchmarks in language and literacy development; family partnership strategies; among others.  The panel will also explore ways to leverage existing and new federal grant opportunities and private funding to support language and literacy proficiency for children from birth to third grade.

Three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in 3rd grade will continue to struggle academically, greatly reducing their chances of graduating from high school, going to college or successfully participating in a 21st century high skill economy. However, children who receive high-quality literacy instruction during their earliest years are more prepared for kindergarten and success in elementary school and beyond. 

“An Act relative to third grade reading proficiency is the first of its kind in the nation, setting the stage for a truly state-wide effort to improve 3rd grade reading outcomes, said Co-Chair Nonie Lesaux. “It's a privilege to co-chair this panel, which is comprised of experts from across the sectors that influence children's early literacy development and is therefore poised to do the hard work it's going to take to see many more of our children succeed. Governor Patrick and the Legislature have given Massachusetts another chance to be tops in education, and to cut down on the high and sometimes even tragic individual and societal costs of children’s low reading skills.”

The Patrick Administration is committed to ensuring that all students have the supports necessary for a successful start and has prioritized efforts to increase early literacy rates as a key strategy in helping students achieve at higher levels and realize long term academic success and positive life outcomes.

The Administration is also developing shared practices to build children’s early literacy skills from Pre-K through 3rd grade as part of a statewide system alignment strategy to enhance program quality and improve achievement outcomes.  This work is further supported by the Commonwealth’s successful Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge plan, a four year blueprint for advancement of child, youth and community outcomes in Massachusetts.  In 2011, the Commonwealth received a $50M award from the Obama Administration over four years to implement high-energy, achievable education reform initiatives that chart a clear path for closing achievement gaps at an early age, before they begin to form. 

“While Massachusetts leads the nation on many educational benchmarks, it is staggering that 43% of our third graders are not able to read proficiently,” said Carolyn Lyons, President and CEO, Strategies for Children, Inc. “Through the creation of this panel, the Patrick Administration and the legislature recognize that the path to reading success begins at birth, with children’s earliest language development, and includes high-quality early education and strong primary grade instruction. Giving young children the strong start they deserve helps secure a strong future for the commonwealth.”

Early Literacy Expert Panel members include:

Matthew H. Malone, Ph. D., Co-chair
Secretary of Education
Commonwealth of Massachusetts                                                                                      

Nonie K. Lesaux, Ph.D., Co-chair
Professor of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education                                                                             

Lisa Antonelli
Kindergarten 1 Teacher
Franklin D. Roosevelt School
Boston Public Schools

Maryellen Brunelle, Ed.D.
Auburn Public Schools

Joan Kagan
President and Chief Executive Officer
Square One

Kelly Kulsrud
Director of Reading Proficiency
Strategies for Children

Mariela M. Páez, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
The Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education
Boston College

Jessica R. Roth, MD
Children’s Hospital Boston
Martha Eliot Health Center

Wayne Ysaguirre
President and CEO
Associated Early Care and Education, Inc.

For more information on the Patrick Administration’s early literacy work, please visit