"Read to Succeed": Destined to Fail
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“Read to Succeed” is a cheap, reckless, knock-off of the Florida model that would hurt children.
SC Senate Bill 516 (“Read to Succeed Act”) claims to copy Florida’s Reading Initiative. Florida automatically retained 3rd grade students with low reading scores, but paid for extensive interventions before, during, and after that step.
You could have an interesting debate about that idea, but it would be irrelevant: South Carolina's version doesn't mandate or pay for much of anything except retention. Good news:
“It’s Not Going Anywhere.”
This high-profile bill is sponsored by some of the most powerful Republicans in the Statehouse. Many Senate Democrats horse-traded their support to find votes for a pre-K expansion.
Some in the education lobby are afraid to oppose it openly, even though they consider it terrible policy. Others claim that the unfunded interventions suggested in the bill (few are even mandated) justify the documented harm that retention does to children.
EdFirstSC raised concerns about the bill immediately. We were out in front opposing it as soon as it became clear that it would offer no significant interventions for struggling readers and do lasting harm to kids.
A “hold” was our only hope. Under Senate rules, any one Senator can hold up a piece of legislation if they have strong objections and are willing to take the heat.
It was a lot to ask. Putting a hold on this bill would take courage.
Sen. Brad Hutto has stood up for public schools before. He also voted against this bill in subcommittee. His name went to the top of our call list.
At 2am on Tuesday, I emailed members from my home in Charleston, asking them to call and email. By 9am, I was in Columbia handing out flyers to Senators. Phones were ringing off the hook in the offices from our call list. I introduced myself to a secretary and showed her the flyer:
“I know who you are. My inbox is FULL of THAT!”
Nicely done, folks.
Most of Wednesday was spent under the covers.
I did have a fascinating conversation with someone close to the bill. I figured they were calling to complain about our opposition. Nope...just wanted to tell me how the bill ended up as awful as it is. I can only say that it involved the usual suspects.
The call seemed like a good sign, but I worried about the fact that our teacher members might be preoccupied with PASS testing. On Thursday, I started calling every Senate office personally.
I got to the office of one of the sponsors of “Read to Succeed”. The secretary was very friendly, we started chatting, and she offered to check on the status of the bill.
“Oh…Sen. Hutto has placed a hold on this bill.”
I wanted to make sure I understood. “Meaning…?”
“Meaning it’s not going anywhere.”
UPDATE: Behind the scenes, State Supt.-for-Now Mick Zais had been pulling the strings on this bill while letting others carry it forward. Now that it's dead, he's squawking loudly.
His primary complaint? The bill ended up offering too much. He went so far as to call it "a Christmas tree". He wants it to come back next year as just a straight retention bill with literally NO interventions attached. Gov. Haley has been making noise about this, too.
Read on to see just how absurd and out-of-touch his description is. Expect to hear more and be ready to respond.
Why Would We Stop a Bill with a Catchy Name Like “Read to Succeed”?
“Florida Is as Florida Does, Sir”
About a decade ago, Florida began doing 3 things:
- Funding intensive reading interventions and boosting overall school funding by 22%
- Capping K-3 class sizes at 18 students (25 for other grades)
- Holding back 3rd graders who fail the state reading test
Reading scores improved.
Guess which one South Carolina wants to do first? (Hint: It’s not “All of the above”)
They want to retain 3-5 times as many kids as we do now.
Retention research is very consistent: academic gains fade after 3 years, and dropout rates are dramatically higher. One study found that children rank the prospect of retention as more stressful than wetting their pants in front of the class. The only events ranked more stressful were going blind and losing a parent.
The director of Florida’s Reading Initiative recently stated: “Retention alone will not work.”
“Show Me the Money!”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said:We probably would have had a third of our kids stay back had we done nothing. But we required a different approach. We put reading coaches in every school to teach teachers how to teach reading... We launched the universal pre-K efforts.
Florida spent $750 Million to implement their program and $130 million this year to maintain it. They paid for reading coaches, remedial instruction, camps for every struggling reader, and paid, tuition-free professional development for teachers.
The sponsors of South Carolina's Read to Succeed want to spend $2 million.
They would require teachers to pay for up to $4800 worth of new coursework out-of-pocket.
"Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"