Notes on Wisconsin SB 329(reading)


This bill comes at a critical time for literacy in Wisconsin. According to the most recent data from the Forward Exam, only about 37% of Wisconsin students are proficient in reading.i And this is not just a problem in the largest cities. Districts that “Exceed Expectations” on the state report card often have proficiency levels below 70%—meaning 30% of students aren’t achieving adequately.ii

Sadly, many school districts around the state have not taken the necessary steps to address the problem. Antiquated curricula not based in the “Science of Reading” is pervasive. A recent WILL studyiii found that 44% of districts around the state are using curricula that do not align with the best practices identified in educational research. Those districts had lower reading outcomes on average than districts that used other methods.

Fortunately, there is a better way forward. States that have implemented legislation substantially similar to what’s under consideration today have made significant jumps in reading. One success story is Mississippi, long a bottom-dweller in reading proficiency. In 2013, they ranked 49th in fourth-grade reading as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. After requiring more phonics, today they are ranked 21st. Wisconsin desperately needs a similar revolution.

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-