Oklahoma House passes reading proficiency bill

A bill that would give parents and educators the joint ability to promote a student who fails the third-grade reading test was approved by the state House of Representatives Monday and sent to the governor.
by Randy Ellis Published: May 13, 2014
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Third-grader Abimael Quinonez, 9, works on a reading exercise Wednesday during intersession at Herronville Elementary School in Oklahoma City. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
  PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND - 
PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND
Third-grader Abimael Quinonez, 9, works on a reading exercise Wednesday during intersession at Herronville Elementary School in Oklahoma City. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND - PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND

A bill that would give parents and educators the joint ability to promote a student who fails the third-grade reading test was approved by the state House of Representatives Monday and sent to the governor.

The House vote was 89-6.

Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, praised the vote on House Bill 2625.

“As an educator, parent and grandmother, I realize the value of local control and a parent’s voice in the education process — this bill allows for both,” Hampton said. “Today I witnessed what I consider to be the first step in doing what’s right for our 7,970 third-grade students who were labeled failures last week by an unjust testing process.”

State Rep. Jason Nelson argued against the bill, contending the Legislature would be harming third-grade students in the long run by allowing them to be promoted to the fourth grade if they cannot read beyond the first-grade level.

“This is about social promotion for social reasons,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “They cannot read adequately.... We’re not doing anybody a favor. We’re not being compassionate. To me, I think it’s the opposite of compassion to expect a kid to go on into fourth grade and do fourth-grade work reading at a first-grade or second-grade level.”

House author Katie Henke strongly disagreed, arguing that parents and educators are in the best position to judge whether promotion is in a child’s best interest.

“All we want to do is ensure our children can read and make sure that determination is made by allowing those closest to the student ... to make that determination rather than a state agency,” said Henke, R-Tulsa.

“Every child is different. Every child learns differently,” Henke said, drawing loud applause from parents in the House gallery who showed up to support the measure.

The third-grade proficiency test — a hot button issue all session — became even hotter on Friday when the state Education Department released the results of this year’s reading test. The results showed 7,970 Oklahoma students scored “unsatisfactory” on the test, including 28.9 percent of Oklahoma City School District students and nearly 33 percent of Tulsa district students.


by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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