Monday, October 7, 2019

It's the parents, not the schools

Media outlets in this state are worried today about the impact of the Alabama Literacy Act on educators. The new law requires that today's first graders will have to pass a new reading test by the end of their third grade, or they could be held back. If third graders haven't reached grade-level reading proficiency two years from now, who has let them down?

"If we promote children who can't read in the third grade, we are failing those children," said Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, the law's sponsor.

The state plans to choose a new reading test to decide who advances to the fourth-grade. But looking at current state test results, Alabama teachers face a lot of work to avoid massive retention rates. Exceptions can be granted for some children, including English language learners and students with disabilities who have received intense supports for two years and have already been held back once.

In 2018, less than half of the students in 81 of Alabama's 137 school districts were proficient in third-grade reading on the state's annual test. That means in most districts more than half the third-graders could be held back under the new law.
Mobile's NBC15 picked up on this today.

Both stories talk about the potential impact and worry about how the state's education system will cope with the onerous requirement that third graders should be able to read at the third grade level two years hence.

I see the new law as a warning shot across the bow of parents who aren't reading to their children. This is a conservative state legislature doing what it was elected to do and putting more power and more responsibility on parents.

The AP story doesn't even contain the word 'parents.' The piece only discusses the role of parents in children's early literacy in the context of the third most important job of a state government  'task force.'

Casting this new requirement as a burden on the state and failing to mention that a child's parents are the first reading teacher is a surprise. Do parents not read to their children anymore?

My earliest memories include a daily reading from a book called 365 Bedtime Stories and a prayer before lights out. I and the oldest of my two brothers also took turns reading the back and sides of the cereal box at breakfast. Our school had a small library and every grade had a book day that let us check out a new book every week that we were in school.

My children got the same early education we did. We read to them every night from the age they could pay a few moments' attention to new words and new ideas. I could probably recite the Cat in the Hat by memory right now (and I'm sure they could, too).

Rep Terri Collins (R-Decatur, AL) sponsored the bill in the 2019 Alabama Legislative Session and it was signed into law last May. Rep. Collins will tell you that while the schools will administer the new test, it's the parents who should be held accountable for making sure their children can read.

My kids don't have kids yet, but some of my nieces and nephews do. I also know a number of people with very young children. It's my fervent prayer is that they're reading with them children at least once every single day.

If they aren't, and their children can't read Cat in the Hat by the third grade...


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