As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I was in the middle of writing one blog post when I got distracted and started another one. I decided to finish and post the first one and mull over my approach to the second one.
Around 4:00 yesterday, the SDE emailed the iRead newsletter out to everybody who subscribes to that listserv. The blast contained two frequently asked questions and their surprising answers (bold text from original message):
#1. Are districts required to hold a Summer Academy Reading Program even if there is no RSA funding available?
Yes. It is now required to hold a Summer Academy Reading Program in your districts.
According to the Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part C, “Summer academy programs shall be designed to ensure that participating students successfully complete the competencies necessary in reading for promotion to fourth grade and to enhance next-grade readiness. A summer academy reading program shall be a program that incorporates the content of a scientifically research-based professional development program administered by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation or a scientifically research-based reading program administered by the State Board of Education and is taught by teachers who have successfully completed professional development in the reading program (DIBELs or Literacy First) or who are certified as reading specialists.”
Other funding sources may be used if RSA funds are not available. According to the Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part E, “Nothing in this section shall prevent the State Board of Education or a school district board of education from utilizing private, local, or federal funds to implement this section.”
Funding sources can be found on ourWebsite.
#2. What about the options for the Summer Academy Reading Program?
The options are geared toward the parents and guardians. School districts are required to have the Summer Academy, but if a parent or guardian refuses to place his child in the program, or for some reason the child is unable to attend the program, then the parents or guardians have other choices. Please read the law according to Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part D, “School districts may approve an option for students who are unable to attend a summer academy. The optional program may include, but is not limited to, an approved private provider of instruction, approved computer- or Internet-based instruction, or an approved program of reading instruction monitored by the parent or guardian. School districts shall not be required to pay for the optional program, but shall clearly communicate to the parent or guardian the expectations of the program and any costs that may be involved.”
This is the clearest example yet of an unfunded mandate. It is also the most brazen example of indifference by the SDE. Here are just a few of the problems I see:
- Just use other money. Um, we’re out. Yes, we will have carryover funds, but less than last year, and we have to start the next year with something, since the SDE refuses to issue a state aid check to districts in July.
- Plop the kids down in front of a computer; they’ll practically teach themselves! Yes, they’ll teach themselves to read. On a computer.
- Call us if you need to find reading specialists. Have you tried finding reading specialists? There aren’t bunches out there. It’s as if people don’t want to do the extra work to get the degree and certification when there isn’t any extra compensation for it.
- We put the word “shall” in bold. Twice. That has to mean something, right? Actually, no. It doesn’t. Look – we have “designed” the summer program. We just don’t have the money for it. A close reading of the RSA law does not convince me that districts have to provide summer reading academies if funding doesn’t materialize.
Obviously, schools want to help struggling readers. We want to do a lot of things that haven’t been funded. We also want leadership from our state education agency.
To subscribe to the iRead newsletter, email here.
To subscribe to the Reading listserv, click here.
To contact Teri Brecheen, the SDE’s Executive Director of Reading and Literacy, use this account.