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UPDATE 4:05 p.m. – Parents and teachers will now have more of a say in the third grade reading test.

Two-thirds of the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Fallin’s veto of House Bill 2625 this afternoon.

Since this was an emergency bill, it immediately goes into effect.

The bill creates a team to work for and with students to decide if they are ready to go to fourth grade instead of relying solely on the third reading test.

The bill rolls back the regulations established in the Reading Sufficiency Act.

The district superintendent would ultimately decide to promote or retain the student based on their recommendation.

The House voted 79-17 to override the governor’s veto.

The Senate voted 45-2 to override Gov. Fallin’s veto of the bill.

State Representative Katie Henke, the bill’s author, said the legislation empowers parents and educators.

After the override Henke said, “Today, the House and Senate supported legislation that empowers parents and educators to make individualized decisions for Oklahoma students.”

Sen. Gary Stanislawski agreed with Henke and released the following statement:

“I’m very grateful for the overwhelming support of this bill by my fellow members of the Senate. This will retain the high standards set out to make sure Oklahoma students are learning to read at the appropriate level, but  the decision that a child needs to be held back won’t come down to a single high-stakes test.  It allows for a series of assessments throughout the school year, and gives our local schools, professional educators and parents greater input.”

UPDATE: Despite being passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed House Bill 2625.

The bill would have rolled back the regulations established in the Reading Sufficiency Act.

“The research is clear,” said Fallin. “From kindergarten to third grade, children learn to read. Beginning in the fourth grade, they ‘read to learn.’ Without basic literacy skills, children in the fourth grade fall further and further behind. Those children are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to find good jobs even if they do graduate. Promoting them to fourth grade without the basic tools they need to succeed is not just unwise; it is immoral. We must ensure our children have basic proficiency in reading before the fourth grade.”

Several state officials are upset with the governor’s decision.

Rep. Katie Henke released the following statement:

“I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s decision to veto legislation that empowers parents and educators to make individualized decisions in regard to the unique needs of Oklahoma students. This bill has had unparalleled support in both chambers – 43-1 in the Senate and 89-6 in the House. I look forward to standing with my colleagues to override this veto.”

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate author of a measure modifying Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act, issued the following statement:

“I respect the governor, and share her goal of ensuring more Oklahoma students acquire the reading skills needed to succeed, but I disagree that HB 2625 would weaken the third-grade reading standards.  The issue was the single high stakes reading test. HB 2625 allows third-graders to take reading assessments throughout the year, and gives greater input to our local schools, teachers and parents. Since the bill modified that process, I did not feel we should penalize this year’s third-graders. I’m still hopeful that something can be done to bring fairness to this year’s third-graders before the session ends.”

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that gives parents and teachers a role in deciding to promote or retain third grade students has overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives.

With an approval vote of 83-6, House Bill 2625 now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

It allows parents, two teachers, a principal and a reading specialist to help decide whether a third grader has the reading skills to advance to the fourth grade.

Last Friday, we learned nearly 16% of Oklahoma’s third graders did not pass the controversial third grade reading test, known as the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), and as a result, they could be held back a year.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE) pointed out that even if a student fails the reading test, they can advance to the fourth grade through alternate tests, a summer reading academy and through the development of a reading portfolio.

The vote is a victory for dozens of parents who showed up at the state capitol to show their support for the bill.

“I think I know my kid best,” Dan Vincent said. “The teacher knows my son very well. The test makers do not know my kids.”

“That test doesn’t even measure reading all that well,” Aysha Prather said. “A lot of it is language arts rather than reading comprehension, so it’s not a valid measure in any case.”

Before the vote, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said Monday if a third grader can’t read first-grade level Dr. Seuss books, fourth grade books like “Little House On The Prairie” are really going to frustrate a child.

Barresi says the bill is merely “social promotion,” setting back the fight against illiteracy and dropout rates several years.

She says the children retained because of their test scores do not actually “repeat” third grade, they only take reading classes to catch up.

Barresi said, “For those few children that don’t qualify under these exemptions, then let’s just stop as a state and say ‘let’s give you the gift of reading’.”

The SDE opened up hotlines Monday to answer questions about the third grade reading test.

“Obviously, I would like to have a say in his education,” Angela VanZanten, parent of a third grader with dyslexia, said Monday, “but really, the teachers he works with on a day to day basis that know what his potential is, that know how smart he is, they’re the ones that should have the decision to promote him or retain him. Not one test.”

Barresi released a statement following the vote Monday afternoon:

“Today’s vote endorses a system of social promotion that has failed to reduce illiteracy and has deprived students from receiving the best education possible. Nothing is more fundamental to learning than the ability to read. The Reading Sufficiency Act can greatly improve literacy in our state, but it cannot work if it is abandoned for social promotion.  Instead of providing an alternative to learning to read, which this pending bill does, we should instead spend our energies helping these students read. Instead of taking the easy way out, we need to make certain every effort is made by parents, teachers and our communities to help these children learn to read.  House Bill 2625 reinforces a status quo that has failed far too many children. It places exorbitant costs and time on school districts by mandating fourth- and fifth-grade reading remediation for students with Unsatisfactory and Limited Knowledge scores. Moreover, it requires districts to hire reading specialists to be on the committees, an expense that smaller districts will be unable to afford. It undermines a law that districts have had three years to comply with and involve parents in its implementation.  Even a well-intentioned bill can have grievous consequences, and I am concerned that is the case with HB 2625.”

The SDE opened two hotlines to answer questions on the RSA.

Parents who have questions can call (405)521-3774.

District personnel can call (405)521-3301.