Tulsa Educators React To Fallin's Reading Bill Veto

Tuesday, May 20th 2014, 11:15 pm
By: Tess Maune

It's a bill meant to give third graders a second chance, but Governor Fallin said passing it would be immoral.

The governor vetoed a bill, that would have let parents and educators send kids to fourth grade, even if they failed the state's reading test. Fallin said if students can't read proficiently by the time they're in third grade, they'll only continue to fall behind.

Some educators say the way children learn can't be categorized as one way fits all.

5/20/2014 Related Story: Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Changes To Reading Requirements

"We have seen where students are catching up by fourth grade or by fifth grade, it takes time, not everyone develops at the same pace," said Tracy Bayles, Chief Academic Officer for Tulsa Public Schools. "We are individuals, we all learn differently, we learn at different paces we develop our social and emotional skills differently."

In her nearly three decades working with Oklahoma schools, she said she's never seen the state of education in such a low place

"I think it's a slap in the face, absolutely, that there's no trust in Oklahoma educators," Bayles said.

Bayles said Oklahoma's third grade reading law essentially lets the state determine whether students move on to fourth grade, when she believes it should be up to parents and teachers.

House Bill 2625 would have allowed teachers and parents to decide which third-graders should be held back.

"We definitely want parents and teachers to be involved in the process, and they should be, but we also have to have standards," said Governor Fallin.

"I find that offensive on so many levels," Bayles said. "This is hurting children at the end of the day. These are eight and nine-year-old children."

Some said Fallin is ignoring students with special needs.

At Tulsa Public Schools 33 percent of third graders failed the test. Bayles said preliminary figures show a majority of those were part of individualized education programs or are English language learners.

"Thinking about those kids with special needs, that is very impactful," said Bayles.

The governor said many special needs students should fall under one of the six exemptions.

In a statement she said, "The research is clear, from kindergarten to third grade, children learn to read. Beginning in the fourth grade they 'read to learn.'"

She went on to say promoting children to fourth grade without the basic tools they need would be "immoral."

"Immoral is a very strong word," said Bayles "I believe, speaking personally, that it is immoral for the state to dictate what is best for my child, what is best for your child, what is best for any child. I believe the state should not ever have that right."

Bayles said holding a child back a grade can be the only option for some students, but not for all.

As of now, failing students will have to go to summer school and pass a second test to move on to fourth grade.

The bill passed through legislature with overwhelming support, some lawmakers said they'll attempt to override the veto.