June 23, 2023

Test & Punish Reading Bill Passes Assembly, WEAC Still Has Major Concerns

Test & Punish Reading Bill Passes Assembly, WEAC Still Has Major Concerns Featured Image

Bill triples the number of tests for K-3rd grade students, includes provisions to sue educators.

Amendments adopted by the Assembly to the Test & Punish reading bill don’t go far enough to gain the support of Wisconsin Public School teachers, WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said after the measure was passed Wednesday, June 22.

Hundreds of educators emailed our representatives to raise our concerns before the Assembly vote. We were successful in:

  1. Removing forced retention of third graders, but the bill still requires students who score in the 25th percentile on a standardized test to redo third grade reading curriculum; and
  2. Including voucher schools in the prohibition of the three-cueing method of instruction.

The amendment also changed some of the dates for school boards to adopt mandated reading curriculum and policies and changed the requirement for reporting on state report cards to include the percentage of pupils who score below 25% on reading test, instead of the number of students.

WEAC’s concerns remain to parts of the bill that will increase the number of tests K-3rd graders are required to take, along with provisions to create politically appointed DPI reading panels, require teachers to take on lengthy coursework for additional certifications with no additional pay and make it easier to sue dedicated teachers in circuit court.

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“Wisconsin is struggling to keep and attract educators into the profession, but these measures coupled with a lack of acknowledgement for teachers’ expertise, will certainly push more caring educators out of the profession,” Wirtz-Olsen said.

See Representative Kristina Shelton lay out the problems with the bill on the Assembly floor

While WEAC and groups such as the Wisconsin State Reading Association are vocal in our opposition to one-size-fits-all government-mandated curriculum and other harmful measures, State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly gave the Assembly version of the bill her stamp of approval calling it a “big step in the right direction.”

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The governor’s staff says he is still reviewing the bill, but Republican Assembly Education Chair Rep. Joel Kitchens said Gov. Evers will sign because State Superintendent Underly is on board. The Senate Education Committee has held a public hearing, but not yet voted on the bill.

WEAC sent a letter to the governor this week to restate our position on the reading legislation and state budget as a whole. “WEAC has been clear: Our governor should stand for reading programs that support students; 90 percent public school special education funding; and no armed officers in MPS,” the letter said. “Without major overhauls to address the serious education concerns in the state budget, we call on you to veto the entire budget so it can be reworked and will be reflective of what Wisconsinites have been clear they support.”