Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers

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 gone through DPI public hearings and was sent to the education committees of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, where no action was taken.

PI-34 is now sitting with the Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which is the last stop before it becomes a permanent rule. Because of concerns it has heard from Wisconsin Reading Coalition and other groups and individuals, the committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday, June 7th, at 10:00 AM in the State Capitol. We urge you to attend this hearing and make a statement. If you cannot attend, please consider sending an e-mail comment to the committee members prior to the hearing. A list of committee members follows. As always, it is a good idea to copy your own legislators. If you copy Wisconsin Reading Coalition, we will make sure your comments are delivered in hard copy.

To refresh your memory of the issues involved, please see this WRC memo to the Committee on Administrative Rules.

Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (contact information provided in links):

Representative Ballweg (Co-Chair)

Senator Nass (Co-Chair)

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Stroebel

Senator Larson

Senator Wirch

Representative Neylon

Representative Ott

Representative Hebl

Representative Anderson

Teachers and more than 180,000 non-proficient, struggling readers* in Wisconsin schools need our support:

*There are currently over 358,000 K-5 students in Wisconsin public schools alone.
51.7% of Wisconsin 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the 2016-17 state Forward exam. Non-proficient percentages varied among student sub-groups, as shown below in red and black, and ranged from approximately 70-80% in the lower-performing districts to 20-35% in higher-performing districts.

    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) currently requires new K-5 teachers, reading teachers, reading specialists, and special education teachers to pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (WI-FORT) before getting an initial license to teach. The intent of this statute, passed in 2012 on a bipartisan vote following a recommendation of the non-partisan Read to Lead task force, was to enhance teacher quality by encouraging robust reading courses in educator preparation programs, and to ensure that beginning and struggling readers had an effective teacher. The WI-FORT is the same test given in Massachusetts, which has the highest 4th grade reading performance in the country. It covers basic content knowledge and application skills in the five components of foundational reading that are necessary for successfully teaching all students.
  • The annual state Forward exam and the newly-released results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) highlight the importance of having high-quality teachers in Wisconsin classrooms. 65% of our 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the NAEP. Our national ranking has slipped to 34th, and all sub-groups of students perform below their national averages. Our black students rank 49th among black students in the country, and our white students rank 41st.
  • The revised teacher licensure rules that DPI has presented to the legislature in the re-written administrative rule PI 34, create a new Tier I license that provides broad exemptions from the WI- FORT.
  • We encourage the education committees to table the adoption of this permanent rule until it is amended to better support teacher quality standards and align with the intent of statute 118.19(14).
  • We favor limiting the instances where the WI-FORT is waived to those in which a district proves it cannot find a fully-qualified teacher to hire, and limiting the duration of those licenses to one year, with reading taught under the supervision of an individual who has passed the WI-FORT. Renewals should not be permitted except in case of proven emergency.
  • We favor having DPI set out standards for reading instruction in educator preparation programs that encompass both the Standards for Reading Professionals (International Literacy Association) and the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (International Dyslexia Association). This will enable aspiring teachers to pass the WI-FORT and enter the classroom prepared to teach reading.
  • We favor having DPI implement a corrective action plan for educator preparation programs where fewer than 85% of students pass the WI-FORT on the first attempt in any year. Students putting in four years of tuition and effort should be able to expect to pass the WI-FORT.

Foundations of Reading: Wisconsin’ only teacher content knowledge requirement…

Compare with MTEL

Mark Seidenberg on Reading:

“Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how”

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Tony Evers, currently runnng for Governor, has lead the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction since 2009. I wonder if anyone has addressed Wisconsin achievement challenges vis a vis his DPI record?

An emphasis on adult employment, also Zimman.

Alan Borsuk:

“I didn’t have one phone call, I don’t have one email about this NAEP data. But my phone can ring all day if there’s a fight at a school or can ring all day because a video has gone out about a board meeting. That’s got to change, that’s just got to change. …

“My best day will be when we have an auditorium full of people who are upset because of our student performance and our student achievement and because of the achievement gaps that we have. My question is, where is our community around these issues?