Deb Durbin, a special education/Title I paraprofessional, takes notes as Sabastian Hershiser, a Sandrock Elementary School third-grader, reads aloud during a September 2011 Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test. A proposed bill making its way through the Colorado House of Representatives would aim to ensure all students read at grade level before they leave third grade.

file photo

Deb Durbin, a special education/Title I paraprofessional, takes notes as Sabastian Hershiser, a Sandrock Elementary School third-grader, reads aloud during a September 2011 Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test. A proposed bill making its way through the Colorado House of Representatives would aim to ensure all students read at grade level before they leave third grade.

Proposed literacy act sparks debate about holding back struggling readers

photo

Courtesy photo

Adele Bravo, right, a literacy interventionist for Boulder Valley School District, testifies Monday before the Colorado House Education Committee. She voiced concerns about the resources required by House Bill 12-1238, also known as the Colorado Early Literacy Act, which is still under deliberation in the House.

At a glance ...

• The Colorado House of Representatives is considering a bill that would put an emphasis on reading in kindergarten through third grade.

• House Bill 12-1238, also known as the Colorado Early Literacy Act, aims to ensure students reading at grade level by third grade.

• The bill recommends, but does not mandate, schools to hold back third-graders from advancing to fourth grade if they’re not reading at grade level by the end of the school year.

• Superintendent: Retention shouldn’t be the first or only solution for struggling readers.

CEA spokesman: Bill raises concerns about funding, teacher workloads

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, supports the effort put forth in House Bill 12-1238 to get lagging readers back on track.

But the time, training and resources needed to implement the bill give its members pause, said Mike Wetzel, public relations director for the teacher’s union.

If passed, the bill would require teachers in kindergarten through third grades to identify students in their classes who are reading below grade level. They would then craft a plan, with input from the child’s parent, to get the student caught up.

The bill comes at a time when class sizes in schools across Colorado are ballooning as a result of “hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts” in recent years, Wetzel said.

“If you give teachers additional requirements and at the same time you’re increasing their class sizes, that’s a point of concern,” he said.

The bill also would require more resources—including money—to train teachers to meet the mandate of the bill, he said.

“So resources are certainly a factor,” Wetzel said.

If a third-grader falls behind in reading, should he or she be allowed to move on to the next grade?

The question is at the center of a debate concerning a proposed literacy act moving through the Colorado House of Representatives.

House Bill 12-1238, also known as the Colorado Early Literacy Act, shines a spotlight on students in kindergarten through third grade who fall behind in reading.

The bill requires schools to provide programs to ensure students are reading at grade level by the time they finish third grade.

If students are still lagging behind, the bill recommends but does not require schools to hold them back a year.

The bill points to reading as a “foundational skill” necessary for academic success but also highlights other reasons to focus on literacy.

“A comprehensive approach to early literacy education can improve student achievement, reduce the need for costly special education services, and produce a better educated, more skilled and more competitive workforce,” the draft bill states.

Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent, was cautious in commenting on the bill Tuesday. It’s early days yet, he said, and the bill could still change.

Still, he acknowledged that retention, or holding a student back, is a hot-button issue.

One view is that retention stigmatizes students socially, emotionally and academically, he said.

“And then people on the other end of the extreme say, ‘Well, at some point we’ve got to get kids reading, and this is a wake-up call for schools and parents that some of our children are not reading at the level that they should,’” he said.

Petrone said he can see both sides of the issue but believes holding students back shouldn’t be the first or only solution.

Reading is a crucial skill, but “every situation is different because every child is different,” he said.

Instead, schools should be allowed to explore all other options, like early interventions, before retention even becomes an issue, the superintendent said.

The Colorado Education Association holds the same view.

“What we say … is that you need to treat each child individually,” said Mike Wetzel, public relations director for the teacher’s union. “You just can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to children.”

Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.

Comments

petercraig 2 years, 1 month ago

It is really a shame that Commonwealth leaders cannot see that it is the language (its spelling system) that is disabled, not the kids! English orthography is the most irregular of all Western world languages and, not surprisingly, reading/writing disabilities are notoriously ubiquitous in Commonwealth countries, most of the times heavily mitigated by very expensive remedial programs and extra specialized teachers. Devastating psychological, pernicious economical , and sociological effects aside, all is fine in the best of all worlds! Finnish has one of the easiest spelling system and, not surprisingly, they usually top international assessments like PISA. Coincidence? Do you want to know more? Go to http://reforming-english.blogspot.ca/ ... then.

0

Brian Kotowski 2 years ago

So the legislature is going to throw money at it. I'm sure it's a miracle that any of our ancestors managed to conquer the orthography and survive. And God forbid that parents should take any responsibility. My own ancestors, on both sides of the family, were immigrants who had to learn English as a second language. Miraculous, I tell ya!

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.