Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Governor Mary Fallin Signs Education Improvement Bills
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed a number of education bills designed to promote early learning and literacy, improve teacher evaluations, and other items.
One closely watched piece of legislation, Senate Bill 630, was signed today. SB 630 extends for three years the use of reading teams meant to evaluate student literacy levels under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). It also begins the use of reading sufficiency teams earlier, in the first grade, to identify children who are struggling to read at grade-appropriate level. Previously, the use of reading teams began in the third grade.
The RSA is designed to ensure that children are able to read at grade-appropriate level before they reach the fourth grade. The RSA uses standardized tests to evaluate student reading performance. SB 630 raises the bar for student literacy, now requiring test scores of “proficient,” rather than just “limited knowledge” for student advancement to fourth grade. If a student does not score “proficient,” reading teams continued under SB 630 are able to advance students to the fourth grade under “probationary promotion” if the decision to do so is unanimous. The reading teams, officially designated as Student Reading Proficiency Teams (SRPT), would include a child’s parent or guardian, current teacher, future teacher and reading specialist. Principals and their district superintendent would then review and approve each reading team recommendation.
Fallin said that emphasizing reading skills is one of the best way to improve performance and learning beyond the third grade.
“Children ‘learn to read’ from kindergarten through third grade; in higher grades, they ‘read to learn,’” said Fallin. “If children are to succeed in fourth grade and beyond, they need to have grade-appropriate reading skills.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act puts into place a rigorous system for measuring student reading and provides extra attention and instruction for children who are falling behind. The extension of the reading teams ensures that parents are well-informed about their children’s progress and working cooperatively with teachers to get those children up to grade-level.
‘I am also glad to see that legislators worked to strengthen the RSA requirements, raising the minimum requirements for students from a score of ‘limited knowledge’ to one of ‘proficient.’ Raising the bar in the classroom is essential to pursuing the goal of boosting educational attainment and outcomes across Oklahoma.”
Education bills signed today
· SB 630: Modifies the Reading Sufficiency Act. For students in first and second grade not reading at the corresponding grade level, an individualized remediation reading plan will be developed to get the student reading at grade level. The plan will be developed by a committee consisting of the parent, the child’s teacher who had the responsibility for reading instruction in the academic year, a teacher responsible for reading in the next grade level and a reading specialist when available. The bill also increases the minimum reading level of students to be promoted to fourth grade from “limited knowledge” to “proficient” beginning in the 2016-17 school year. For the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, probationary promotion may be considered by a Student Reading Proficiency Team composed of the parent, the child’s teacher who had the responsibility for reading instruction in the academic year, a teacher responsible for reading in the next grade level and a reading specialist. Once a student in the first, second or third grade demonstrates reading proficiency at the third grade level through an approved screening instrument, they will have met the reading requirement to be promoted to fourth grade.
· HB 1823: Directs the State Board of Education to study the calculation of the school report card and provide recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the evaluation system.
· SB 706: The bill modifies the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System (TLE). Beginning in 2016-17 school year, teachers and administrators will receive both a qualitative and a quantitative rating. The TLE will be used for matters of employment beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
· HB 1693: This bill modifies The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to allow any taxpayer, who makes a contribution to an eligible educational improvement grant organization and commits to contribute the same amount for an additional year, receives a credit for the first year and the additional year equal to seventy-five percent of the total amount of the contribution each year. In addition, the bill allows “eligible special needs students" to receive scholarships of up to $5,000.00 or eighty percent of the statewide annual average per-pupil expenditure to cover the educational costs of a qualified school which does not charge tuition and enrolls special populations of students.
· SB 711: This bill requires a superintendent who recommends the dismissal of a teacher to their local board of education to forward a copy of the recommendation to the State Board of Education if the reasons for dismissal could form the basis of criminal charges sufficient to result in the denial or revocation of a certificate. The State Board of Education will be notified after the completion of due process procedures.