Parents, teachers rally in support of House Bill 2625; House, Senate pass amendment to test mandate

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Green Country parents and teachers took a stand Monday before lawmakers in Oklahoma City, urging them to hand over the power to decide if third-graders flunk or pass.

RELATED: Sixteen percent of Oklahoma third graders fail reading test

About 40 supporters of House Bill 2625 showed up for the vote before the House of Representative.

The amendment to HB 2625 would give more influence to parents and teachers. Under the measure, a panel formed of local representatives with the school and parents would be formed. They would evaluate each child that received an unsatisfactory grade in the third grade reading test. Based on their evaluation they would decide if the child failed or passed on to the next grade.

It was a lengthy debate, but the author of this bill, Tulsa representative Katie Henke says the power had to be given back to parents and teachers at a local level.

The Oklahoma House and Senate have both passed amendments to the third grade reading test mandate. The bill may now head straight to the governor’s desk.
Gary Strickland has a third-grader who attends Eisenhower International School in Tulsa; his child passed the exam.

Strickland said he is now worried about the thousands of kids who did not.

"I hope it sends a strong message to Gov. Mary Fallin that this is something parents across Oklahoma want, " he said.  "And expect her to sign it when it reaches her desk."

Henke is the author of HB 2625. She is trying to push this as an emergency bill so that it is signed before the end of the school year and helps the children who are just now finding out they received an unsatisfactory grade. 

Following the passage of the HB 2625 amendment, Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi released the following statement:

"Today’s vote endorses a system of social promotion that has failed to reduce illiteracy and has deprived students from receiving the best education possible. Nothing is more fundamental to learning than the ability to read. The Reading Sufficiency Act can greatly improve literacy in our state, but it cannot work if it is abandoned for social promotion.

"Illiteracy in our children must be a call to action. Everything I’ve seen this school year proves that teachers all across our state have heard that call and are doing monumental things. They are persisting with struggling readers and giving children the one skill that will serve as a gateway to other personal achievements in their lives.

"The RSA ensures the greatest resources and amount of time available to intensive, customized reading instruction. Only in the most extreme cases when good-cause exemptions don’t apply is retention part of the law. The point of the RSA is to focus education for struggling readers long before they reach third-grade.

"Instead of providing an alternative to learning to read, which this pending bill does, we should instead spend our energies helping these students read. Instead of taking the easy way out, we need to make certain every effort is made by parents, teachers and our communities to help these children learn to read.

"House Bill 2625 reinforces a status quo that has failed far too many children. It places exorbitant costs and time on school districts by mandating fourth- and fifth-grade reading remediation for students with Unsatisfactory and Limited Knowledge scores. Moreover, it requires districts to hire reading specialists to be on the committees, an expense that smaller districts will be unable to afford. It undermines a law that districts have had three years to comply with and involve parents in its implementation.

"Even a well-intentioned bill can have grievous consequences, and I am concerned that is the case with HB 2625."

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