Legislation and Early Reading: Wisconsin’s odyssey continues

Tyler Katzenberger:

The new version of the bill, passed Wednesday afternoon by the Assembly in 67-27 vote, would prescribe an “intensive” personal literacy plan, including summer classes, for incoming fourth graders who failed to meet third-grade reading benchmarks. Students would exit the plan after they pass a grade-level reading test and their parents agree the plan is no longer needed.

Eight Democrats voted for the bill: Reps. Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay, Sue Conley of Janesville, Dave Considine of Baraboo, Dora Drake of Milwaukee, Tip McGuire of Kenosha, Tod Ohnstad of Kenosha, Sylvia Ortiz-Velez of Milwaukee, and Shelia Stubbs of Madison. Two Republicans, Reps. Shae Sortwell of Two Rivers and Joy Goeben of Hobart, voted against the GOP-authored bill.

Assembly Democrats tried and failed during debate Wednesday to send the bill back to committee, arguing it needed more work.

“This bill is so close. It is very very close,” Andraca said. “But we just got an amendment literally an hour or so ago, and it fundamentally changed a number of things. I haven’t had a chance to hear from school districts in my district how they feel about this bill. Why? Because they’re teaching.”

The changes introduced Wednesday were “a very short amendment” to a measure that’s remained largely the same since it was first introduced earlier this month, Kitchens responded. Both he and the DPI previously told the Journal Sentinel they’ve been working on the reading overhaul since last November.


State Superintendent Jill Underly after the bill’s passage called it a “step in the right direction.” She said the Department of Public Instruction had “very productive” conversations with legislators in crafting the agreement.

AB 321 would establish an Office of Literacy to contract 64 full-time literacy coaches who would help teachers implement a newer model based on phonics, vocabulary building, reading fluency, and oral language development, among other things.

The body rejected Dems’ request to refer the measure back to committee. Dems argued the bill needs more work and criticized the addition of another amendment. 

The amendment added today includes measures to require students who read below grade level to have individualized reading plans until they catch up and to include the percentage of third-grade students who read at grade level on school report cards. 

Rep. Christine Sinicki said there is no reason to rush the process. 

“It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re doing the work here that gives our teachers and our schools the tools they need to succeed,” the Milwaukee Dem said. 

She said while she didn’t want to oppose the bill, the amendment didn’t address all of her concerns, such as an intensive summer reading program for those with the lowest reading scores. She questioned how it would be paid for.

Co-author Rep. Joel Kitchens, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said he would challenge anyone to name a bill that has had as much collaboration as the reading bill. 

“It’s a very complicated bill, it’s very long, there’s always going to be something someone doesn’t like, but we need to get this done,” the Sturgeon Bay Republican said.

He also said spending more time on the measure would kill the bill, urging lawmakers to “do the right thing.”

Legislation and Reading: the Wisconsin Experience 2004 –

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?