Sen. Ed Emery’s Legislative Report for April 6, 2018

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Reading & Success

“Once you learn to read, you will be free forever.” Frederick Douglass

It has been said that if you teach a child to read and to love to read, they can learn everything else on their own. Although enhancements may be applied to that statement, it intrinsically is true – especially in the age of the internet. Reading is the most fundamental building block of learning and holds the keys to acquiring personal expertise in anything else. According to the Children’s Institute, “…reading proficiency enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn … Students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school than proficient readers.” They also report that “Of the 2.5 million kids who dropped out of high school nationally in 2015, 1.6 million of them received the lowest reading scores on the third-grade literacy exam.”

In Missouri, of the 910,000 students in state schools, over 60 percent who took the National Assessment of Educational Process (NAEP) reading assessment in fourth and eighth grade failed to score at a proficient level. That may be partially responsible for the State Board of Education’s abandonment of the goal to be in the “Top 10 by 20.” House Bill 1417 and Senate Bill 949 are bills to help Missouri remedy this tragedy and ensure that Missouri students learn to read. The House bill has been held up since early January in the House Education Committee, unable to obtain a hearing. The Senate bill was eventually voted out of the Senate Education Committee and made it to the Senate floor for debate this week. The bill was well on its way to perfection when an issue unrelated to the content of the bill caused it to be laid over. There are still hopes for going back to it in time to enact it into law this year.

Provisions of Senate Bill 949 include the administration of a reading assessment for all K-3 students. If a reading deficiency or dyslexia is suspected, parents must be notified along with a description of the reading services the school will provide to improve the child’s reading to grade-level. The reading intervention program must not reduce regular classroom instruction. A read-at-home plan is to be prepared for the parent(s) along with suggestions for participation in parent training workshops and/or parent-guided home reading activities. The parent would also receive written quarterly progress reports at a minimum.

Once the program is implemented, for any student who is not reading at grade level by the end of the second grade, the bill mandates that they receive specific supports and services until the deficiency is remedied. Districts would be required to provide summer reading camps for third graders scoring in the lowest achievement level on statewide English/language arts assessment tests.

Each school board would be required to report annually to the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) by building and by district. The district or charter school would also be required to post the status and progress report on their website and in a visible location near the entrance of each elementary building.

It appears that the House bill is not going to be allowed out of the House Education Committee and is therefore dead. Reading is such a fundamental and profitable skill that I hope and pray the Senate bill is not dead and that we can return to it and pass it. It would still have to make it through the House of Representatives and be signed by the governor before becoming law.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. We welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.