As I wrote yesterday, the Kentucky Board of Education heard the public comments about new testing rules that will no longer allow teachers to read state reading assessments to students with learning disabilities. After a review of those public comments, the board decided to move ahead on schedule to eliminate readers from the reading tests when the new state testing program starts this April and May. It is an important, and difficult, decision.
Here are some specific comments from board members regarding this vote, as captured by the Kentucky School Boards Association:
Vice Chairman Roger Marcum said:
“All of us have struggled with this. This is a case of bad practices in the field has gotten us to this point where we have to do something to provide an incentive not to continue that poor practice.”
Markum also expressed concerned about the significant amount of misunderstanding of the new regulations revealed by the public comments. He noted that a very small number of learning disabled students may not ever be able to learn to read, but pointed out that:
“The struggle for me is that we have large numbers of students who are receiving accommodations and it makes sense to me that many of them could be more independent in reading skills.”
Board member Dorie Combs, an education professor at Eastern Kentucky University, offered similar sentiments:
“When students are constantly reading aloud to each other, they are not learning to read silently, independently, and therefore not developing fluency. Yes, there are extreme situations where students with disabilities that may make it impossible for them to read silently, but I think those are few and far between. We are eliminating the possibilities for them to read much too soon. We are enabling these students to get through high school without truly learning to read independently.”
I also attended the meeting and noted Board member concern about confusion over the new regulation. At one point board member even speculated that it almost seemed like there was an active effort at disinformation regarding the new changes.
The facts are that the revised regulation on testing only prohibits use of readers on the state reading tests. Readers can still be used as needed in daily classroom preparation of students and on other parts of the state assessments. It’s only on the state reading assessments that readers will no longer be permitted. The point is the goal is to develop individuals who can read and learn independently to the maximum extent possible.
Sadly, past reading policy in Kentucky actually provided inducements for educators to carry learning disabled students through their entire educational experience without schools ever needing to spend the time to teach those students to read. It was a very bad policy that will have lifetime repercussions for thousands of students who passed through Kentucky’s public school system since the early 1990s and were never taught to read well enough to even sit for a reading assessment.