Home > Uncategorized > Reading Sufficiency: Don’t Overthink This

Reading Sufficiency: Don’t Overthink This

May 4, 2015

In 2014, the Oklahoma Legislature did one of the smartest things I’ve seen from them in quite a while. They passed HB 2625, authored by Katie Henke. Then when Governor Fallin vetoed it, they quickly passed it again – overwhelmingly. This bill kept the heart of the third grade retention law – the Reading Sufficiency Act – in place, but correcting the fact that the retention decision was automatic and completely tied to the third grade reading test.

The handful of people opposed to the bill just couldn’t seem to understand that the six good cause exemptions were going to leave a lot of kids stuck in a holding pattern. The safety nets for English Language Learners and special education students just weren’t sturdy enough. They also, in typical form, expected the worst from educators. In their minds, if a committee that also included a parent were to meet to discuss promotion to the fourth grade, the teachers and principals would cave to pressure every time.

They didn’t. Committees met. Many students were promoted. Some were retained. For both groups of students, committees have continued meeting.

For my school district, this has meant the creation of 12 new forms. Keep in mind that our staff (collaborating with specialists from other districts) made these forms with no help from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. When we would ask questions, we would receive answers that were merely quotations of the law or administrative rules. Also keep in mind that large school districts such as Moore have the ability to employ curriculum specialists. This state has many districts that do not, in which case, the task of creating documentation would have fallen to principals and teachers.

RSA Forms

These are the forms we use when our committees meet, when we make recommendations on our students who scored Unsatisfactory last year, and when we communicate with parents. If SB 630, which has passed both chambers with amendments and still needs to go to conference committee, were to pass as written, this process would become much more complicated. We would now have to go through these same steps with all of our students who score in the Limited Knowledge range as well.

My understanding is that adding the Limited Knowledge group in with the Unsatisfactory group is the price to extend the time of the parent/teacher committees. Last year, HB 2625 put this step in place for two years. This summer will be the second year. Passing SB 630 would extend that provision through the 2019-2020 school year.

Keeping parents involved in retention/promotion decisions is critical. The rest of the work is important too. My fear is that when we take the same number of teachers, principals, and reading specialists and double their paperwork and meeting time, we will dilute the impact we are seeing on our neediest students. How much extra  time do we really need to spend on students who are one or two questions short of passing the test? The short answer is as much as it takes. With the students who are farther behind, this undefined amount is much, much more.

Only a few of the people I talk to want to do away with the RSA altogether. What most of the rest of us want to do is give the current configuration some time to work. We believe, other than the fact that it’s not fully funded, that we’re making it work. We believe, with recent changes at the SDE, that we’re even getting a little guidance finally to help us with the bureaucratic part of it. More paperwork and meetings aren’t the help our students need.

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  1. claudiaswisher
    May 4, 2015 at 7:26 am

    This bill will extend the committee until 2020, but there is NO sunset for the LK kids…they will continue, year after year, past 2020, to be told they cannot pass third grade. High price for the committees…but the only hope.

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  2. May 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

    My biggest concern (other than the fact that all students learn at different rates, who magically decided third grad?) is with adding the limited knowledge as a the new low – does no one understand that this test does not test reading? And what about those young students who just click through stuff (like my daughters…). This makes me grumble….JUST ASK US FOR SOME INPUT PLEASE!!!

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    • 2nd Grade Wonders
      May 4, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      1. 3rd grade was chosen because it is the 1st year of testing & after 3rd, reading changes. In 4th grade a child is “reading to learn” instead of “learning to read”. Reading instruction moves away from the elementary phase of instruction in the 5 basic literacy components of phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, & comprehension in separate pieces towards a more mature strengthening of the components through literature.
      2. The test tests over Reading Comprehension & Vocabulary. Both are components of literacy that good readers possess.
      3. You as a parent always have input. Communicate with your child’s teachers. Get in touch with your legislatures who set these policies. The teachers & administration don’t have input either. We are just the pros who teach the kids. Talk with your kids. You are their #1 teacher.

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      • TC
        May 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        2. And . . . literary elements, figurative language, sound devices (rhyme/rhythm/alliteration), and research and information skills (using resources, alphabetization, guide words, glossary/index/table of contents, using text formats, accessing info from charts and graphs).

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  3. 2nd Grade Wonders
    May 4, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Good Article!

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  4. May 4, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    As usual…very well said!! We’ve got to stop the testing madness!!

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  5. TC
    May 5, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I guess I should know this, but maybe I can get a quicker answer here than elsewhere. For this CURRENT year and the test that was just taken, are we looking at including all the LK students in the committee process if the legislation gets approved as written? Or will this only affect us for the Spring 2016 test and beyond?

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    • May 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      My understanding is that it will affect us in 2016 and beyond.

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      • TC
        May 5, 2015 at 5:39 pm

        Thanks, good to know. Also, thanks for all you do here. I may not comment much, but I stop by and read every day. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • May 5, 2015 at 9:55 pm

        I appreciate it!

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  6. Janet Batson
    June 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I am a Reading Specialist who will be working with a school district in the fall in a newly created Reading Coach position. How could I get an email attachment with the 12 forms created for your school? I’m starting from scratch in this new position to help them with the RSA. Thank you.
    Janet Batson

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  1. May 4, 2015 at 9:12 am
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