Third Grade Reading Bill Likely to Pass This Week

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Sept. 21, 2016

Yesterday, MASB was pleased to see long-awaited movement on House Bill 4822, the third grade reading legislation, which has been sitting since March in a conference committee when the House rejected the changes made by the Senate. A compromise was finally reached late on Tuesday and approved by the conference committee meaning the legislation could be finalized today or tomorrow.

Support for reading intervention programs for early elementary students and continued support for those students who are not grade-level proficient has been a legislative priority for MASB. Parts of the Senate version that were retained addressed MASB’s biggest concerns and created intervention programs for struggling readers beginning in kindergarten and following the student until s/he is up to grade level. Additionally, it allows the parent to be involved in the decision to retain a child that is not reading at third grade level.

It also allows a student that is proficient in other subjects to advance to fourth grade with his/her peers, but continue to receive literacy interventions. The interventions included in the bill start in the 2017-2018 school year, and the possibility of retention will apply when this year's kindergarteners are third graders. This gives most students equal exposure to interventions and support before facing retention.

“MASB worked hard to make sure that retention was a last resort for these students and we are happy that our key concerns were covered in the final version of the bill,” said MASB Executive Director Don Wotruba.

The conference report raised a few minor concerns that MASB will work to address going forward. It does allows for a student to progress to fourth grade if s/he is proficient in other subjects as proven by the state assessment in math and a pupil portfolio in science and social studies. We would like to see the portfolio option for math as well, just as it is allowed for literacy. Also, the teacher is no longer allowed to request a good-cause exemption on behalf of a student; only a parent or guardian. We have concerns about situations where a parent is not engaged, due to choice or circumstances, and that child being retained because s/he does not have an advocate in the process. Finally, we do not feel the current budget contains adequate funding for the requirements under this law, and we will continue to push for increases.

As noted, MASB will continue to monitor the implementation of this new law once its approved to ensure it is having its intended effect and that our schools have the proper resources they need. While this legislation is a great first step, we do not believe our work on this issue is over.

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