Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Testimony - 3rd grade retention, reading (to Senate)

OTHER - SB 5237 - Establishing accountability for student performance in third grade.

Testimony to Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee

Good afternoon Chairman Litzow and Senators,

Washington State PTA does not have a position on retention, and we did not sign in pro or con.

The association is, however, greatly concerned about K-3 literacy; it is a legislative priority of ours. Our position is the state needs to improve internal supports. Not all students are being screened appropriately, and even when they are being screened, staff does not always know what to do with the data, and does not always choose appropriate instructional materials. This extends to principals who may or may not have had any exposure to early learning prior to their school assignment.

In our view the problem is much more profound than students slipping through the cracks.

We propose building on the literacy screening component of WaKIDS to ensure all struggling readers are identified early and taught using an evidence-based curriculum that emphasizes phonological awareness and phonemic instruction. We would like to see:
  • Phonological screenings – To be administered twice a year in kindergarten to grade 3.
  • Better assessment of teacher applicants -- Expand the section of the Professional Educator Standard Board examination that addresses specified facets of reading development and reading instruction. Such examination needs to be founded on evidence-based literacy instruction – that is, direct, explicit, multi-sensory, and systematic literacy instruction that includes phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, spelling, and writing.
  • Data to guide instruction - Develop the capacity of educators to use data to guide instruction, and support ongoing work to make sure student growth data is used responsibly to assist all learners.
Unless and until all of our K-3 staff is well-versed in the science of reading – and can demonstrate expertise -- nothing will really change for these children.  I urge you to consider and incorporate our approach into any bill that moves forward.
-- Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator

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