The Vote after the Condescending Letter
At lunch today, I shared a letter Janet Barresi sent to school districts. Addressed to educators, it had words of wisdom to help us engage parents:
Talk to parents or guardians. If you can reach out to families — especially those where education is not a priority — with accurate information about the RSA and the importance of literacy, you could help spark an entirely new future for those children.
Less than an hour later, the Oklahoma House of Representatives made headway towards that goal, passing HB 2625 by a vote of 84-6 (with 11 non-voting members). That the bill passed only surprised me a little. The margin floored me. Even Jason Nelson changed his vote from committee to join the gang of 84.
This measure would revise the retention language in the Reading Sufficiency Act to read as follows:
Except as otherwise provided, beginning with students entering the first grade in the 2011-2012 school year, if the reading deficiency of a student, as identified based on assessments administered as provided for in subsection B of this section, is not remedied by the end of third grade, as demonstrated by scoring at the unsatisfactory level on the reading portion of the statewide third-grade criterion-referenced test, the student shall be retained in the third grade if a team composed of a parent or guardian of the student, a teacher assigned to the school, the school principal and a certified reading specialist, if one is employed by the school, agree that the student should be retained. The student shall be promoted to the fourth grade if the team members agree that promotion is the best option for the student or if the team members agree that the student should be promoted for good cause as set forth in subsection K of this section. If the team members agree to retain the student in the third grade, the student shall be provided intensive interventions in reading and intensive instructional services and supports as set forth in subsection N of this section. If the team members agree to promote the student to the fourth grade, the student shall be provided intensive reading instruction as set forth in subsection L of this section.
The underlined text is new language. This change keeps the testing. The six good cause exemptions remain in place. Ultimately, the school may still retain a student, but only after a conversation with parents that will include more than a single data point.
This is what so many of us have been asking for. While Barresi and the SDE double down on the original and highly flawed plan, pretending to have been responsive to questions and comments from educators and parents, the legislature has actually provided a solution.
To them, I say “thank you for listening!”
Now, on to the Senate. Then the Governor. Hopefully, this will pass quickly and not leave schools going into May wondering if they have local control or not.