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Gov. Ivey vetoes reading literacy education bill aimed at third graders

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 5:45 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey vetoed a closely watched education bill Thursday that would have delayed holding back third graders who aren’t reading on grade level.

In a statement, Governor Ivey noted her decision is rooted in her experience as governor and as a former teacher.

Third graders who don’t read at grade level could have to repeat third grade starting next school year as part of the of the Alabama Literacy Act. SB94, which was backed by some education leaders, hoped to delay the retention policy until 2024.

“When COVID hit in March - they were in 1st grade and lost about 25 percent of their school year. Then as second graders - depended on where they are,” said Ryan Hollingsworth, Executive Director of School Superintendents of Alabama, “It’s been anything but a normal school year.”

Ryan Hollingsworth, who serves as the Executive Director for the School Superintendents of Alabama, noted that school districts planned to continue to support student learning whether Ivey vetoed the bill or not.

Ivey agreed that students faced learning challenges for the past 15 months, but said any delay before reviewing reading assessment data would be “hasty” and “premature.” She also requested the state superintendent to provide a complete review of the 2021 Spring Assessment results and will ask members of the state reading committee to review that data and make recommendations on necessary action.

Ivey said the review of student assessment data by the state could be done before any deadlines with the Literacy Act, so a potential window for some changes before full implementation.

Governor Ivey’s full statement:

“As a former teacher and even more so as governor, I believe early literacy is the gateway to all learning. In the past several days, I have heard from Alabamians who support and from those who oppose the legislature’s approval of a two-year delay of the third-grade promotion policy included in the Alabama Literacy Act. Without the delay, the promotion policy is set to take effect at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, or one year from now.

Everyone agrees that the past 15 months of the Covid-19 pandemic have been hard on all Alabamians, including school personnel, students and parents. However, to establish any delay at all in the Alabama Literacy Act prior to analyzing the 2020-2021 summative assessment data for reading would be hasty and premature. Therefore, I have notified the sponsors of the promotion policy delay that I have vetoed SB 94.

Furthermore, as president of the Alabama State Board of Education, I am requesting that the state superintendent of education and his staff provide the board, and the public, a full and complete review of the Spring 2021 Assessment results in all subjects and grades, but in particular the data on reading in the early grades as soon as the data are available and have been analyzed. Once that is completed, I will ask the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading to review the relevant data and make recommendations regarding any necessary action. All the aforementioned work can take place this year, well ahead of any deadlines identified in the Alabama Literacy Act.

As we address the impact of the pandemic on our students, we need the support and focus the Alabama Literacy Act provides: identifying and supporting struggling readers, teacher training and coaching, and clear communication with parents on where their children have needs and how those needs are being addressed. We must remain focused on ensuring that our students have the foundational reading skills they need to succeed.”

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