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Rankin: Why aren’t third graders reading proficiently?

I keep a count by the subject matter of emails coming to my inbox. Getting top score lately is the upcoming revision of the Social Studies Standards. The second-highest score concerns the reading proficiencies of our third-grade students. Parents and community members have not been reluctant to share their concerns. The following are some thoughts on those subjects and current updates and future directions of both.

At the March State Board of Education meeting, the Social Studies Standards revision timeline was updated by Education Commissioner Katy Anthes. The commissioner stated that the revision suggestions were “pretty extensive.”

Approximately 1,000 emails and letters were received in the State Board office. In addition, over 16,000 comments were accepted by the online system. It’s been an extensive process, and there is a lot of interest, Anthes said. State legislators and state board members have also provided feedback and questions.



The education department and the state board want the process to go forward in a thorough, and thoughtful way. In order to accomplish this, they’re giving the Social Studies Standards committee, the vast majority who are teachers, more time to review and respond to all of the feedback. The education department will provide a summary of public comment feedback to the State Board at our April meeting. Then, at the May meeting, the board will hear the committee’s suggestions and vote on the newly-revised standards. Depending on board discussion, the timeline may be extended beyond what the statute requires. However, the timeline hasn’t been set beyond May.

One Western Slope constituent gathered over 800 signatures to support her premise: “While the proposed standards mention our foundational documents such as the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence as well as the basic structure of our government such as the three branches of government, these are not emphasized even though they are so vital to understanding why our country endures despite our many differences. We ask that the proposed standards be totally rethought with an emphasis on the shared experiences that unite us as citizens of the United States.”



Stay tuned.

The second most popular topic brought to my attention was reading. “Why are only 40% of our third graders reading proficiently?” This conclusion is based on the 2019 English Language Arts test results.

I recently asked superintendents in the 3rd Congressional District for information about the number of teachers in their district who have completed the evidence-based Science of Reading training. All teachers of reading at the kindergarten-third grade level are required, by statute, to complete the training by Aug. 1, 2022.

The teacher must upload evidence of their training to the department of education website by Aug. 15. As of this writing, half of the 51 school districts that I represent have replied to the request, and many are on target to complete the coursework on time.

If teachers implement the training in their classrooms, evidence has shown that reading proficiency will improve. The winners will be the students.

Stay tuned.


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