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Literacy screenings mandated, but don’t get your hopes up

Sawyer Free Library’s children’s librarian Justine Vitale reading "The Leaf Thief” by Alice Hemming to first-grade students from Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Gloucester in November 2021.Tracy Davis/Sawyer Free Library

I applaud the new regulations mandating literacy screening for Massachusetts students from kindergarten through at least third grade (“Schools to add literacy screening,” Metro, Sept. 21). But there is a significant obstacle to its implementation: school districts.

In my experience, school districts do not comply with the law. These regulations will roll out in July 2023, and, like so many other education regulations, I expect they will largely be ignored.

I have been advocating for the educational rights of children with special needs since 1997. Despite the Education Reform Act of 1993, which pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Massachusetts education system, the achievement gap between students with and without disabilities has gotten worse over time. Why? Because school districts violate the educational rights of these children, and the state has no way to identify and correct these violations.


As Chapter 766, which guarantees that young people with special needs receive an educational program best suited to them, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the public should be aware that what happens at ground level in our schools is far different from what happens in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s boardroom.

Ellen M. Chambers


The writer is the founder of SPEDWatch, a nonprofit special education watchdog group.