Legislation and K-12 reading: 2023 Wisconsin Edition

Corrinne Hess:

A bipartisan bill is expected to be released this month that would change the way most public schools in Wisconsin teach reading. 

State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Education, has been working with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on the plan that would move more schools away from teaching what is known as “balanced literacy,” to a “science of reading” approach.

Instead of being taught reading through pictures, word cues and memorization, children would be taught using a phonics-based method that focuses on learning to sound out letters and phrases.

According to DPI, only about 20 percent of school districts are using a phonics-based approach to literacy education. Other reading curriculums that don’t include phonics have been shown to be less effective for students.

The bill will be introduced separately from the 2023-25 biennial budget that is currently being crafted but $15 million to support the plan would be included in the budget, Kitchens said during an April 24 interview on Wisconsin Eye.  

“Education is the one chance we have to break the cycle of generational poverty that we see in Wisconsin and reading is by far the most important skill to allow children to be successful in school,” Kitchens said. 

Kitchens told Wisconsin Public Radio on Thursday he is updating the current draft of the bill and will share it with DPI “in coming days.”

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.”

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

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