Governor Vetoes Changes to Reading Act

Governor Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have changed the law requiring third graders to pass a reading exam before being promoted to fourth grade.

The bill would have created a committee to evaluate the children who don't pass the test.

That committee would have had the final say on which children would be held back.

The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for the changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act, which was part of a Republican-led agenda to increase the rigor in Oklahoma schools and prevent students from advancing to the fourth grade if they didn't score satisfactorily on a state reading test.

Nearly 16 percent of Oklahoma's third graders scored "unsatisfactory" on state reading tests and could be held back next year.

"Without basic literacy skills, children in the fourth grade fall further and further behind," Fallin said. "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."

If a child receives a score of "unsatisfactory," he or she has a number of options for promotion to the fourth grade. There are six total "good cause exemptions" available to students who:

  • Work with teachers to assemble a portfolio of work that demonstrates basic literacy
  • Take one of four alternative standardized reading assessments recognized by the State Board of Education
  • Successfully complete a summer reading academy
  • Have limited English language proficiency and have received less than two years of instruction in an English language learner program
  • Have a disability and have been placed in an individual education program assessed with alternate achievement standards through the Oklahoma Alternate Assessment Program
  • Have received intensive remediation in reading for more than two years and have been previously held back in either kindergarten, first, second or third grade

The Associated Press contributed to this report.