Advocacy Update: New 2016 Arizona ELA Standards

Adopted December 2016

For more information go to:



Advocacy Update: ESSA, Learn, Proposition 123

July 2016

by Michelle Parker-Rock M.Ed.
ARA Advocacy Chairperson
National Literacy Consultant
 Author of Books for Young Readers


In December 2015 the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama. ESSA replaced the former No Child Left Behind initiative (NCLB), a piece of legislation that was destined for failure because it relied on a national testing regime that held all state school systems accountable for progress without considering the everyday demands of classroom teaching, the diverse needs of students, and the overwhelming challenges placed on educators to overcome the realities of large class sizes, children living in poverty, and the general inequities of educational opportunity and funding.  As a result, many states found it necessary to apply for waivers after failing to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress goals. The signing of the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill (ESEA), which became known as ESSA 2015, was an historic act that reflected change and received the support of huge majorities in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Briefly, the current ESSA is flexible in that it looks to the states to take responsibility for repairing underperforming schools and lessening the achievement gap. It also allows states to be more eclectic in the way students are assessed.  This factor is critical and deserves close attention because educators must take an active role in how this element is shaped and implemented. In addition, ESSA articulates three categories for mandated intervention with regard to schools whose test scores are in the bottom 5%, high schools whose graduation rates are 67% or lower, and schools who are consistently under performing. However, ESSA does give states the authority to determine the nature of the interventions, making this is another area where educators can play a necessary professional role.


In addition, it is important to mention Literacy Education for All-Results for the Nation, also known as the LEARN Act, a provision of ESSA that provides federal support and authorizes $2.35 billion for states developing comprehensive high quality literacy instruction in reading and writing from birth through grade 12.  It is implored that all Arizona stakeholders participate in the process to ensure that the state legislature applies for LEARN funding and that the money be used to make literacy education appropriate and accessible to all students.

To develop a deeper understanding about ESSA and the Learn Act, go to:


Arizona Proposition 123

As for Arizona Proposition 123, it should be noted that on June 30, 2016, the State Board of Investment approved a payment of more than $190 million to schools.  However, the money and the election that provided for the funding remains controversial. Legal challenges may still be forthcoming. Please continue to watch for ongoing developments.

Lastly, the first amendment act empowers all citizens to advocate for literacy. Together we can help identify problems and propose solutions for reducing the burden of testing, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring a well-rounded education for all.  Heed the call of the International Literacy
Association (ILA) and the Arizona Reading Association to join the conversation and take steps to become a champion.


The International Literacy Association Calls for a Strong Literacy Commitment to the ESEA Reauthorization Bill



What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is the act of supporting and arguing in favor of something— such as a cause, an idea, or a policy. Literacy Advocacy focuses on educating and organizing others for the purpose of actively affecting policy and legislation for literacy.

Why is it Important to Be an Advocate for Literacy Education?

As literacy educators and members of the Arizona Reading Association, we have the knowledge and experience to help define and shape what is needed to ensure thehighest quality literacy education for the children and youth in our state. Therefore, we have the important job of informing Congress, the State Legislature, the Governor, local administrators, the media, and others about the best ways to provide our students with fluid, meaningful, and comprehensive literacy education. It is also our responsibility to influence state and national public policy decisions that affect our school districts, our professional educators, and the communities that we serve.

Does Advocacy Have an Impact?

Yes, advocacy has an impact. As professionals, we are on the front lines of education. Our experiences and background knowledge have value. We are the eyes and ears of how state and federal policies influence literacy. We are also voters. Members of the Arizona State Legislature and the United States Congress are eager to hear from constituents. As advocates, it is our duty to keep elected officials enlightened and incumbent upon us to hold them accountable for the decisions they make.

Does the Arizona Reading Association Have an Advocacy Network?

Yes, the Arizona Reading Association has a growing advocacy network. To join the Arizona Reading Association's Advocacy and Legislative Network, contact the ARA Advocacy Chairperson Michelle Parker-Rock M.S.Ed. at AdvocacyandSocialMedia@arizonareadingassociation.org. You can also connect with the Arizona Reading Association through social media.
Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaReadingAssociation Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/azreadingassoc
Connect with us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7018825/profile And visit our Website: www.ArizonaReadingAssociation.org

                                                             Advocacy and the International Literacy Association
The International Literacy Association describes itself as a global advocacy organization with literacy as its cause, its passion, and its reason for being. The organization’s mission is to empower educators, inspire students, and encourage leaders with the resources they need to make literacy accessible for all. ILA also speaks out for funding and policies that support the literacy needs of school systems, teachers, and students around the world. In addition, ILA advocates for teachers’ and students’ needs and sets the standards for how literacy is taught, assessed, and evaluated.

ILA’s Government Relations Committee is charged with conducting numerous activities related to advocacy around U.S. legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. ILA’s Legislative Action Team is a grassroots network of ILA members across the country that volunteer assistance in the advocacy of legislation that promotes high quality reading instruction.

In addition the current ILA President Jill Lewis-Spector said that “IRA (ILA) must advocate for teachers around the world and against restrictive educational policies, improve public perception of teachers, and work with all our members to ensure our voices are among those that effectively influence what happens in schools.”

As a state Council of ILA, the Arizona Reading Association realizes the importance of keeping its members connected to the hot topics and legislative issues related to literacy and education matters. Therefore, for the past several years we’ve been ramping up our efforts to find effective ways to acquire and share relevant information to keep members in the know and stir them to action.

As the champion of a global community of literacy advocates, the International Literacy Association empowers educators, inspires students, and encourages leaders—bringing them together with the practical resources they need to help spread the transformative power of literacy to every corner of the world. The Arizona Reading Association strives to do the same by connecting with like-minded people and organizations in Arizona and across the nation who have information to share about the issues that relate to our mission.