The Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday did not take action on a suggestion by Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner that third-grade students be retained if they do not meet minimum scores on reading assessments.
Heiner was not at the state board’s meeting, but he said in a written report than more than 10 states have adopted comprehensive reading policies that include providing intensive reading intervention for students in kindergarten through third grade; retaining students in third grade who do not meet minimum scores on a reading assessment, and providing even more intense reading intervention for students who are retained.
Such policies are now in place in states including Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina and Florida, Heiner said in his report. He said results have been positive and that reading proficiency levels in states that have adopted such policies are increasing.
“The Kentucky Board of Education and/or the General Assembly should give serious consideration to the adoption of a comprehensive K-3 reading policy. Continuing to ignore the magnitude of Kentucky’s reading crisis is not an option,” Heiner’s report said.
Wayne Lewis, executive director of education policy and programs for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, who Gov. Matt Bevin named this week as an adviser to the state board of education, said Kentucky has a significant problem with students’ reading proficiency.
Lewis reiterated a statement in Heiner’s report that people have misunderstood the intent of the recommended policy as focusing on retaining children in third grade who have not met reading benchmarks.
“The intent of such programs is just the opposite. The intent behind such legislation and state education agency programs is to ensure that all children across the state are in fact reading at grade level by the time they leave third grade,” the report said.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt and board chair William Twyman said they thought there should be more conversations on the proposal. The Kentucky Department of Education is also working on a proposal around K-3 reading.
In another matter, the board voted to allow Fleming County, Robertson County and Caverna Independent school districts to exit the department’s “state assistance” oversight because local officials’ management skills had improved.
When a district is designated as “state-assisted,” the Kentucky Department of Education helps district officials and the local school board implement a plan to correct deficiencies uncovered in a department management audit.