Reading Garfield County Loud and Clear

Even in an election cycle, some issues are bipartisan, or they should be. Most voters can agree whether they fall on the left, right or somewhere in the middle that education and literacy are critically important. If you think about it, the true constituent in Garfield County is the child. Our children are the future, and schools are where kids begin to build a stable foundation that will support them for the rest of their lives.

Nobody argues about the benefit of education and the importance of literacy to our youth. With that in mind, it might come as a shock to learn that only 40 percent of Colorado third graders were grade-level proficient in 2019. That’s a tragedy. So, what are we doing about it? Plenty, thanks to our elected officials Colorado State Senator Bob Rankin and Colorado State Board of Education Member Joyce Rankin who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District which includes Garfield County.

One of Senator Rankin’s prime achievements was passing the Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act. The READ Act focuses on early literacy development for all students, especially those at risk by the end of third grade. Students are tested for reading skills, and those who are not at grade level are given individual READ plans. The program also requires that all K-3 teachers complete evidence-based training in teaching reading.

Meanwhile, with the deadline for teacher compliance looming, Joyce Rankin has been hitting the pavement visiting with school superintendents throughout the 3rd Congressional District which includes Garfield County and spans the state from Craig to Durango to Pueblo to ensure teachers are on track to meet the August 1 deadline for the Colorado K-3 Teacher Evidence-Based Reading Training Requirement.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that if you don’t have someone to champion a program, it’s going to fail. Policies without implementation are always going to fail. I’m proud that leading the way in READ Act teacher certification is Garfield 16, which represents Parachute schools. Joyce is talking with superintendents and teachers to make sure our children are equipped for success early on in their education. It seems there is never as much funding as we’d like, but the READ Act demonstrates that programmatically we can make a big difference for kids.

The Rankins know you don’t pass a bill and check a box that says, “Mission Accomplished.” Party affiliation aside, we can all be thankful to have leaders like Bob and Joyce who do the legwork to ensure that we have measurable results from testing to address the individual needs of children, ensuring that none of them falls between the cracks due to poor literacy skills.

When it comes to reading, there is no room for empty returns from empty rhetoric. Accountability and follow-through are essential to successful programs. In education, we are fortunate to have champions that are leading the way by doing whatever it takes to keep the focus on our kids.

Gregg Rippy, Garfield County Chair