Scott Girard: Other groups that have registered against the bill include the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance and the Wisconsin State Reading Association. Those in support include the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, Decoding Dyslexia-WI and the Wisconsin Branch of The International Dyslexia Association. Dykstra, a … Continue reading Notes on addressing the politics and substance of Wisconsin’s long term, disastrous reading results
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email AB 110, creating a Wisconsin guidebook on dyslexia and related conditions, passed the Assembly earlier this year and passed, with an amendment, the Senate Education Committee at the end of the summer. However, the bill has not yet been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Meanwhile, … Continue reading Pending Reading Legislation
Wisconsin’s new Governor, Democrat Tony Evers, recently acknowledged his support for thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge exam mulligans. Now comes Politifact: As proof, Thiesfeldt’s staff pointed to the most recent Wisconsin Student Assessment System results. The annual tests include the Forward Exam for grades three to eight and ACT-related tests for grades nine … Continue reading Politifact joins the Wisconsin Reading mulligan party
Jenny Peek: Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison professor and cognitive neuroscientist, has spent decades researching the way humans acquire language. He is blunt about Wisconsin’s schools’ ability to teach children to read: “If you want your kid to learn to read you can’t assume that the school’s going to take care of it. You have to … Continue reading Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?
Wisconsin Reading Coalition: A bill is circulating in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would permanently exempt special education teachers from having to pass the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). Prospective special educators would merely have to take one course in reading and reading comprehension, receive some unspecified coaching, and compile a portfolio. There … Continue reading Mulligans for Elementary Reading Teachers; permanent exemption proposal
Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Despite the written and oral testimony of many concerned stakeholders around the state, the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules made no changes to the PI-34 teacher licensing rule that was submitted by the Department of Public Instruction. As a result, graduates of any teacher preparation program (along with other … Continue reading Ongoing Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken our thin elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements.
Alan Borsuk: But consider a couple other things that happened in Massachusetts: Despite opposition, state officials stuck to the requirement. Teacher training programs adjusted curriculum and the percentage of students passing the test rose. A test for teachers In short, in Wisconsin, regulators and leaders of higher education teacher-prep programs are not so enthused about … Continue reading On Wisconsin’s (and Madison’s) Long Term, Disastrous Reading Results
Alan Borsuk: Overall, the Read to Lead effort seems like the high water mark in efforts to improve how kids are taught reading in Wisconsin — and the water is much lower now. What do the chair and the vice-chair think? Efforts to talk to Walker were not successful. Evers said, “Clearly, I’m disappointed. . … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges
Wisconsin Reading Coalition E-Alert: We have sent the following message and attachment to the members of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, urging modifications to the proposed PI-34 educator licensing rule that will maintain the integrity of the statutory requirement that all new elementary, special education, and reading teachers, along with reading specialists, … Continue reading Support modifications to the Wisconsin PI-34 educator licensing rule
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) with concerns about the new teacher licensing rules drafted by DPI. As you know, PI-34 provides broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) that go way beyond providing flexibility for … Continue reading Requesting action one more time on Wisconsin PI-34 teacher licensing
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Wisconsin Reading Coalition has alerted you over the past 6 months to DPI’s intentions to change PI-34, the administrative rule that governs teacher licensing in Wisconsin. We consider those changes to allow overly-broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test for new teachers. The revised PI-34 has … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers
Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Teachers and more than 180,000 non-proficient, struggling readers* in Wisconsin schools need our support While we appreciate DPI’s concerns with a possible shortage of teacher candidates in some subject and geographical areas, we feel it is important to maintain teacher quality standards while moving to expand pathways to teaching. Statute section 118.19(14) … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin DPI efforts to water down already thin elementary teacher content knowledge requirements.
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via email: On January 27th, the Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, convened by DPI Superintendent Tony Evers and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) Executive Director Jon Bales, issued its Full Summary of Preliminary Licensing Recommendations. Together with earlier recommendations from the State Superintendent’s Working Group on School Staffing Issues … Continue reading Some alarming recommendations from the Wisconsin Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges
Molly Beck: A group of school officials, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, is asking lawmakers to address potential staffing shortages in Wisconsin schools by making the way teachers get licensed less complicated. The Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, created by Evers and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators executive director Jon Bales, released last … Continue reading Relaxing Wisconsin’s Weak K-12 Teacher Licensing Requirements; MTEL?
Wisconsin Reading Coalition via a kind email: With the beginning of a new school year, here is some timely information and inspiration. You can make a difference: At WRC, we are often focused on top-down systemic change that can improve reading outcomes for students across our state. However, bottom-up, individual efforts are equally important. A … Continue reading Reading and Curricular Suggestions & Links as the school year begins
The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:
The following links provide a lot of additional details on the legislation that would replace the Common Core State Standards within 12 months with model academic standards created in Wisconsin. Please stay informed and contact your legislators with your thoughts.
2013 Senate Bill 619.
Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 617 (ASA1/AB617)
Video message from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
Governor Scott Walker staff drafted bill aimed at Common Core State Standards.
A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes.
WRC recommends reading the following open letter from Madison neuropsychologist Dan Gustafson to the Governor’s Read to Lead task force. It reflects many of our concerns about the state of reading instruction in Wisconsin and the lack of an effective response from the Department of Public Instruction.
An Open Letter to the Read-To-Lead Task Force
From Dan Gustafson, PhD
State Superintendent Evers, you appointed me to the Common Core Leadership Group. You charged that the Leadership Group would guide Wisconsin’s implementation of new reading instruction standards developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
It is my understanding that I was asked to join the group with the express purpose of bringing different voices to the table. If anything, my experience with the group illustrates how very far we need to go in achieving a transparent and reasoned discussion about the reading crisis in Wisconsin.
DPI Secretly Endorses Plan Created by Poor Performing CESA-7
I have grave concerns about DPI’s recent announcement that Wisconsin will follow CESA-7’s approach to implementing the Common Core reading standards. DPI is proposing this will be the state’s new model reading curriculum.
I can attest that there was absolutely no consensus reached in the Common Core group in support of CESA-7’s approach. In point of fact, at the 27th of June Common Core meeting, CESA-7 representative Claire Wick refused to respond to even general questions about her program.
I pointed out that our group, the Common Core Leadership Group, had a right to know about how CESA-7 intended to implement the Common Core Standards. She denied this was the case, citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”
The moderator of the discussion, DPI’s Emilie Amundson, concurred that Claire didn’t need to discuss the program further on the grounds that it was only a CESA-7 program. Our Common Core meeting occurred on the 27th of June. Only two weeks later, on July 14th, DPI released the following statement:
State Superintendent Evers formally adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, making Wisconsin the first state in the country to adopt these rigorous, internationally benchmarked set of expectations for what students should know and are expected to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards guide both curriculum and assessment development at the state level. Significant work is now underway to determine how training will be advanced for these new standards, and DPI is currently working with CESA 7 to develop a model curriculum aligned to the new standards.
In glaring contrast to the deliberative process that went into creating the Common Core goals, Wisconsin is rushing to implement the goals without being willing to even show their program to their own panel of experts.
What Do We Know About Wisconsin/CESA-7’s Model Curriculum?
As an outsider to DPI, I was only able to locate one piece of data regarding CESA-7’s elementary school reading performance:
4TH GRADE READING SCORES, 2007-08 WKCE-CRT,
CESA-7 IS AMONG THE WORST PERFORMING DISTRICTS.
CESA-7 RANKED 10TH OF THE 12 WISCONSIN CESA’S.
What Claire did say about her philosophy and the CESA-7 program, before she decided to refuse further comment, was that she did not think significant changes were needed in reading instruction in Wisconsin, as “only three-percent” of children were struggling to read in the state. This is a strikingly low number, one that reflects an arbitrary cutoff for special education. Her view does not reflect the painful experience of the 67% of Wisconsin 4th graders who scored below proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
As people in attendance at the meeting can attest, Claire also said that her approach was “not curriculum neutral” and she was taking a “strong stand” on how to teach reading. Again, when I pressed her on what these statements meant, she would only reference oblique whole language jargon, such as a belief in the principal of release from instruction. When I later asked her about finding a balance that included more phonics instruction, she said “too much emphasis” had been given to balanced literacy. After making her brief statements to the Common Core group, she said she had already disclosed too much, and refused to provide more details about the CESA-7 program.
Disregarding Research and Enormous Gains Made by other States, Wisconsin Continues to Stridently Support Whole Language
During the remainder of the day-long meeting on the 27th, I pressed the group to decide about a mechanism to achieve an expert consensus grounded in research. I suggested ways we could move beyond the clear differences that existed among us regarding how to assess and teach reading.
The end product of the meeting, however, was just a list of aspirational goals. We were told this would likely be the last meeting of the group. There was no substantive discussion about implementation of the goals–even though this had been Superintendent Evers’ primary mandate for the group.
I can better understand now why Emilie kept steering the discussion back to aspirational goals. The backroom deal had already been made with Claire and other leaders of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). It would have been inconvenient to tell me the truth.
WSRA continues to unapologetically champion a remarkably strident version of whole-language reading instruction. Please take a look at the advocacy section of their website. Their model of reading instruction has been abandoned through most the United States due to lack of research support. It is still alive and well in CESA-7, however.
Our State Motto is “Forward”
After years of failing to identify and recommend model curriculum by passing it off as an issue of local control, the DPI now purports to lead. Unfortunately, Superintendent Evers, you are now leading us backward.
Making CESA-7 your model curriculum is going to cause real harm. DPI is not only rashly and secretly endorsing what appears to be a radical version of whole language, but now school districts who have adopted research validated procedures, such as the Monroe School District, will feel themselves under pressure to fall in line with your recommended curriculum.
By all appearances, CESA-7’s program is absolutely out of keeping with new Federal laws addressing Response to Intervention and Wisconsin’s own Specific Learning Disability Rule. CESA-7’s program will not earn us Race to the Top funding. Most significantly, CESA-7’s approach is going to harm children.
In medicine we would call this malpractice. There is clear and compelling data supporting one set of interventions (Monroe), and another set of intervention that are counter-indicated (CESA-7). This is not a matter of opinion, or people taking sides. This is an empirical question. If you don’t have them already, I hope you will find trusted advisors who will rise above the WSRA obfuscation and just look at the data. It is my impression that you are moving fast and receiving poor advice.
I am mystified as to why, after years of making little headway on topics related to reading, DPI is now making major decisions at a breakneck pace. Is this an effort to circumvent the Read-To-Lead Task Force by instituting new policies before the group has finished its scheduled meetings? Superintendent Evers, why haven’t you shared anything about the CESA-7 curriculum with them? Have you already made your decision, or are you prepared to show the Read-To-Lead that there is a deliberative process underway to find a true model curriculum?
There are senior leaders at DPI who recognize that the reading-related input DPI has received has been substantially unbalanced. For example, there were about five senior WSRA members present at the Common Core meetings, meaning that I was substantially outnumbered. While ultimately unsuccessful due to logistics, an 11th hour effort was made to add researchers and leadership members from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition to the Common Core group.
The Leadership Group could achieve what you asked of it, which is to thoughtfully guide implementation of the Common Core. I am still willing to work with you on this goal.
State Superintendent Evers, I assume that you asked me to be a member of the Leadership Group in good faith, and will be disappointed to learn of what actually transpired with the group. You may have the false impression that CESA-7’s approach was vetted at your Common Core Leadership Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I trust you have every desire to see beyond destructive politics and find a way to protect the welfare of the children of Wisconsin.
Dan Gustafson, PhD, EdM
Neuropsychologist, Dean Clinic
View a 133K PDF or Google Docs version.
How does Wisconsin Compare: 2 Big Goals.
Wisconsin Academic Standards
Wisconsin Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement Comparison
Governor Walker’s Read to Lead task force met on May 31st at the State Capitol. Following are observations from WRC.
Note: Peggy Stern, an Oscar-winning filmmaker currently working on a project about dyslexia, had a crew filming the meeting. If we are able to acquire footage, we will make it available. If you would like Wisconsin Eye to record future meetings, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Format: Unlike the first task force meeting, this meeting was guided by two facilitators from AIR, the American Institutes for Research. This was a suggestion of Senator Luther Olsen, and the facilitators were procured by State Superintendent Tony Evers. Evers and Governor Walker expressed appreciation at not having to be concerned with running the meeting, but there were some problems with the round-robin format chosen by the facilitators. Rather than a give-and-take discussion, as happened at the first meeting, this was primarily a series of statements from people at the table. There was very little opportunity to seek clarification or challenge statements. Time was spent encouraging everyone to comment on every question, regardless of whether they had anything of substance to contribute, and the time allotted to individual task force members varied. Some were cut off before finishing, while others were allowed to go on at length. As a direct result of this format, the conversation was considerably less robust than at the first meeting.
Topics: The range of topics proved to be too ambitious for the time allowed. Teacher preparation and professional development took up the bulk of the time, followed by a rather cursory discussion of assessment tools. The discussion of reading interventions was held over for the next meeting.
Dawnene Hassett, Asst. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction and new elementary literacy chair, UW-Madison
Tania Mertzman Habeck, Assoc. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction, UW-Milwaukee
Mary Jo Ziegler, Reading Consultant, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Troy Couillard, Special Education Team, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Next Meetings: The Governor’s office will work to set up a schedule of meetings for the next several months. Some of the meetings may be in other parts of the state.
Action: WRC suggests contacting the offices of the Governor, Luther Olsen, Steve Kestell, and Jason Fields and your own legislators to ask for several things:
Arrange for filming the next meeting through Wisconsin Eye
Bring in national experts such as Louisa Moats, Joe Torgesen, and Peggy McCardle to provide Wisconsin with the road map for effective reading instruction, teacher preparation, and professional development . . . top university, DPI, and professional organization leaders at the May 31st meeting asked for a road map and admitted they have not been able to develop one
Arrange the format of the next meeting to allow for more authentic and robust discussion of issues
Teacher Training and Professional Development
The professors felt that the five components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) are generally taught in preparation programs, but that instruction varies widely from one institution to another. Reading course work requirements can vary from 12 credits to just one course. They also felt, as did the teachers on the panel, that there needs to be more practical hand-on experience in the undergraduate program. There was a feeling that teachers “forget” their instruction in reading foundations by the time they graduate and get into the classroom. They have better luck teaching masters level students who already have classroom experience. The linguistic knowledge means very little without a practicum, and we may need to resort to professional development to impart that information. Teachers need to be experts in teaching reading, but many currently don’t feel that way. It is important, especially with RTI coming, to be able to meet the needs of individual students.Both professors and teachers, as well as others on the panel, felt a “road map” of critical information for teacher preparation programs and literacy instruction in schools would be a good idea. This was a point of agreement. Hassett felt that pieces of a plan currently exist, but not a complete road map. The professors and some of the teachers felt that teacher prep programs are doing a better job at teaching decoding than comprehension strategies. They were open to more uniformity in syllabi and some top-down mandates.
Marcia Henry mentioned studies by Joshi, et al. that found that 53% of pre-service teachers and 60% of in-service teachers are unable to correctly answer questions about the structure of the English language. Tony Pedriana cited another Joshi study that showed college professors of reading were equally uninformed about the language, and the majority cannot distinguish between phonemic awareness and phonics. He also said it was very difficult to find out what colleges were teaching; one college recently refused his request to see a syllabus for a reading course. Steve Dykstra read from the former Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the current Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contained incorrect definitions and examples of phonemic awareness. He questioned whether teachers were being adequately prepared in decoding skills. Rep. Steve Kestell was concerned with the assessment that most teachers do not feel like experts in teaching reading, and he wondered if updated techniques for training teachers would make a difference.
Sarah Archibald (aide to Luther Olsen) proposed looking at a more rigorous foundations of reading test, as found in other states, as a requirement for teacher licensure. This would be one way to move toward more uniform instruction in teacher prep programs. Steve Dykstra pointed out that a test alone will not necessarily drive changes in teacher preparation, but publishing the passage results linked to individual colleges or professors would help. Evers indicated that DPI has been looking for several months into teacher testing and licensure.
Gov. Walker asked if the ed schools were looking at the latest trends in teacher preparation to become better. The professors indicated that the ed schools confer with local districts in an effort to improve.
Supt. Evers said it was probably not a good idea that teacher prep programs across Wisconsin vary so much.
Hassett indicated that some flexibility needs to be retained so that urban and rural areas can teach differently. There was some disagreement as to whether teachers of upper grades need to be trained in reading, or at least trained the same way.
Linda Pils pointed out that the amount and quality of professional development for Wisconsin teachers is very spotty. Most panel members felt that a coaching model with ongoing training for both teachers and principals was essential to professional development, but the coaches must be adequately trained. There was some discussion of Professional Development Plans, which are required for relicensure, and whether the areas of development should be totally up the individual teacher as they are now. Steve Dykstra felt that much existing professional development is very poor, and that money and time needs to be spent better. Some things should not count for professional development. Michele Erikson felt that it would be good to require that Professional development be linked to the needs of the students as demonstrated by performance data. Mary Read pointed out that coaching should extend to summer programs.
The main consensus here was that we need a road map for good reading instruction and good teacher training and coaching. What is missing is the substance of that road map, and the experts we will listen to in developing it.
Mary Jo Ziegler presented a list of formal and informal assessment tools used around Wisconsin. Evers pointed out that assessment is a local district decision. Many former Reading First schools use DIBELS or some formal screener that assesses individual skills. Balanced literacy districts generally use something different. Madison, for example, has its own PLA (Primary Language Assessment), which includes running records, an observational survey, word identification, etc. MAP assessments are widely used, but Evers indicated that have not been shown to be reliable/valid below third grade. Dykstra questioned the reliability of MAP on the individual student level for all ages. PALS was discussed, as was the new wireless handheld DIBELS technology that some states are using statewide. Many members mentioned the importance of having multiple methods of assessment. Kathy Champeau delivered an impassioned plea for running records and Clay’s Observational Survey, which she said have been cornerstones of her teaching. Kestell was surprised that so many different tools are being used, and that the goal should be to make use of the data that is gathered. Dykstra, Henry, and Pedriana mentioned that assessment must guide instruction, and Archibald said that the purpose of an assessment must be considered. Couillard said that the Wis. RTI center is producing a questionnaire by which districts can evaluate assessment tools they hear about, and that they will do trainings on multiple and balanced assessments. Dykstra questioned the three-cue reading philosophy that often underlies miscue analysis and running records. no consensus was reached on what types of assessment should be used, or whether they should be more consistent across the state. Hassett questioned the timed component of DIBELS,and Dykstra explained its purpose. Some serious disagreements remain about the appropriateness of certain assessment tools, and their use by untrained teachers who do not know what warning signs to look for.
Evers began the topic of intervention by saying that DPI was still collecting data on districts that score well, and then will look at what intervention techniques they use. Henry suggested deferring discussion of this important topic to the next meeting, as there were only 8 minutes left.
What if, despite everything else going on, we were able to put together a strong, multi-faceted campaign that made progress in fighting the reading crisis in our midst?
The optimist in me says it might happen, and I point to five things that are going on to support that. (Don’t worry, the pessimist in me will show up before we’re done.)
One: I attended the second meeting of Gov. Scott Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force recently. Unlike most anything else going on in the Capitol, this was a civil, constructive discussion involving people of diverse opinions. The focus of the afternoon-long session was how to improve the way teachers are trained to teach reading.
Walker and Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, disagree strongly on some major school issues, but they sat next to each other, facing university professors, teachers, reading advocates of varying philosophies, and others. There even seemed to be some emerging agreement that the state Department of Public Instruction and university leaders could and should take steps to ensure that teachers are better trained before they get into classrooms and, once there, get more effective help in continuing to develop their skills.
The broad goal of Walker’s task force is to get almost all kids reading on grade level before they leave third grade – a wonderful goal. But reaching it raises a lot of issues, including how to deal with sharply contending schools of thought on how to best teach reading.
Nonetheless, at least for an afternoon, important people were engaged in a serious discussion on a huge issue, and that seemed encouraging.
Related: Wisconsin Reading Coalition.
Madison School District Literacy Program; 2011-12 Proposed Budget Hearing Remarks.
Advocating a Standard Graduation Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”. Well worth revisiting.
While working on another story this morning, I kept checking Wisconsin Eye’s live coverage of the first meeting of Gov. Scott Walker’s blue ribbon task force on reading.
Sitting next to the Governor at the head of the table was State Superintendent Tony Evers, flanked by Sen. Luther Olsen, chair of the Education Committee and Rep. Steve Kestell. Also on hand were representatives from organizations like the Wisconsin State Reading Association (Kathy Champeau), teachers and various other reading experts, including a former Milwaukee area principal, Anthony Pedriana, who has written an influential book on reading and student achievement called “Leaving Johnny Behind.” Also on hand was Steven Dykstra of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition.
Dykstra, in particular, had a lot to say, but the discussion of how well Wisconsin kids are learning to read — a subject that gets heated among education experts as well as parents and teachers — struck me as quite engaging and generally cordial.
There seemed to be consensus surrounding the notion that it’s vitally important for students to become successful readers in the early grades, and that goal should be an urgent priority in Wisconsin.
But how the state is currently measuring up to its own past performance, and to other states, is subject to some debate. Furthermore, there isn’t a single answer or widespread agreement on precisely how to make kids into better readers.
- Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review
- Teacher colleges balk at being rated Wisconsin schools say quality survey from national nonprofit and magazine won’t be fair
- When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
- Julie Underwood: SIS and Clusty Searches.