OKLAHOMA CITY (March 6, 2012) – Lawmakers have voted to clarify the process for exempting certain children from the requirement that all third grade students read at grade level or face retention under a law ending social promotion.
House Bill 2516, by state Rep. Sally Kern, amends the Reading Sufficiency Act to require clear documentation of the need for an exemption and makes administrators explicitly responsible for justifying those decisions.
“For long-term student success, it is important that children read at grade-level by the end of third grade,” said Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican who is a former school teacher. “However, there are certain circumstances where we allow students to be promoted to the fourth grade without achieving that goal. It is important that we have a set policy in place to deal with those exemptions that establishes clear responsibility for that decision.”
Under current law, third-grade students may be exempted from retention if they are limited-English-proficient students with less than two years instruction in English or if the student has been diagnosed with a disability and placed on an individualized education plan (IEP).
Also exempted are students who successfully complete an alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the State Board of Education or those who demonstrate grade-level reading mastery through a student portfolio. Students who have received intensive remediation in reading for two or more years and those who have previously been retained up to two years in prior grades are also exempted.
Under House Bill 2516, students may be exempted from retention if the principal recommends it based upon alternative assessments or portfolio work. The superintendent would be required to explicitly approve or reject that recommendation in writing.
The bill also allows teachers to recommend promotion of students contingent upon participation in a summer academy or other program.
“The purpose of House Bill 2516 is to establish a clear, transparent chain of command when dealing with possible exceptions to the social-promotion law,” Kern said. “By creating a paper trail, we can ensure that decisions are not made lightly and that a consistent process is used to make those determinations.”
House Bill 2516 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 93-1 vote today. It now proceeds to the state Senate for consideration.