Report calls for funding to curb 'social promotion' for lagging readers
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 3:49 AM
A new report by the Oklahoma Policy Institute and Community Action Project of Tulsa County calls for more funding and better planning to improve reading achievement in light of a looming requirement to hold back third-graders who can't read at grade level.
"We've created a mandate for kids to pass a reading test or repeat the third grade, but we haven't done enough to make sure children, teachers, and schools are properly equipped," said Gene Perry, a policy analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute and co-author of the report.
Recent amendments to Oklahoma's Reading Sufficiency Act call for retaining students who are found to have reading deficiencies on state tests during the 2013-2014 academic year.
The new report estimates that the number of third-graders who are held back could jump by 2,200 to 3,000 students - and the cost of educating them would be an additional $900,000 to $1.3 million per year.
The Reading Sufficiency Act, which has undergone several changes since being enacted by the Legislature in 1997, already mandates that students read at or above grade level by the end of their third-grade year.
But the latest amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, and passed in 2011, is aimed at ending "social promotion," or promoting a child based on their age rather than academic achievement.
The first group of students to be affected by this amendment are those who will complete third grade in 2014, but for the past two fiscal years Oklahoma defunded Reading Sufficiency Act programs altogether.
Report authors point out that the new third-grade retention requirement was modeled on a successful Florida policy. State officials there prepared by spending $130 million for reading instruction in all grades and schools, emphasizing those with the most struggling readers.
The analysts estimated the equivalent level of reading program funding at $31 million, adjusting for Oklahoma's smaller student population - five times more funding than the state has ever provided for Reading Sufficiency Act programs.
Rebecca Fuhrman, a policy research specialist for the Community Action Project and a co-author of the report, said: "If you want to use Florida as a model and you want Florida results, you have to fund it like Florida. Two out of three will not work in this case."
State Superintendent Janet Barresi has submitted a request for $37.7 million in supplemental appropriations from the Legislature, of which $6.5 million would be dedicated to help meet the requirements of the Reading Sufficiency Act. Also, the state Department of Education's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 includes a line item of almost $6.3 million for the same program.
Sherry Fair, executive director of communications for the Education Department, said Barresi has been lobbying for more funding for this and other reform efforts.
Original Print Headline: Report calls for funding to raise reading abilities
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470