Reading mandate will affect local students
Third graders must read at grade level to advance
CLARKDALE - Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor said Arizona's new reading standards mandate for third graders will impact local students.
Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed legislation that makes it mandatory for third grade students to read at the expected levels in order to advance to fourth grade. The law will become effective in the 2013-2014 school year.
Fleenor said that HB 2732 on third grade retention still needs a lot of clarification before it goes into effect. "First, it states that a third grade student reading far below level will be retained," Fleenor said. "The bill offers no definition for "far below."
She wonders if that is one year or two years below reading level.
"We will have some impact here because the law states that next year school districts must provide an annual notification to parents of pupils in kindergarten: that a pupil who receives a deficit score in reading on the AIMS in grade three will not be promoted," Fleenor said.
Fleenor questions how the state wants those notifications.
"Teachers here meet with parents several times during the year to discuss each pupil's reading score through DIBELS (dynamic indicators of basic early literacy for students)," Fleenor said. "If the new legislation requires a formal letter to be sent, documented and tracked, the tracking over three years will become cumbersome."
Fleenor pointed out that the district already provides after-school and intersession tutoring for students who need further assistance in reading and math.
But, she added, state cuts in school funding will hurt those programs.
Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School will still offer all-day kindergarten next year because local voters approved an override.
If voters would decide not to renew the override next March, that would remove the funding for all-day kindergarten.
"Anytime you have state mandated legislation without additional funding, or well-thought-out directions, school districts are hindered," Fleenor said.
Fleenor agrees that reading is a "very strong indication of educational and academic success for children."
And she says that all children deserve top-quality reading instruction and all the help they can get to become fluent, strong readers.
"However," Fleenor said, "it does seem very strange to me that a legislature that has seen fit to eliminate funding for all-day kindergarten and make such drastic cuts to funding for public education should suddenly decide that reading at grade level by third grade is a top priority.
"The actions of the legislature and the words of their new legislation are in opposition."