By Stefanie Rysdahl Fuhr
Many states insist that students read by third grade. If students have difficulties they might be retained. Students might master reading later. They should not be punished if they aren’t reading perfectly in third grade.
Last spring I sent this letter to my state legislators. Feel free to use it as a template for your legislators.
Dear Senator XXXXX OR Representative XXXXX,
As a constituent, I urge you to repeal Read Well by 3rd Grade legislation. This law is forcing children to read in kindergarten and to be tested on some arbitrary level using inappropriate and even false reading assessments. This is hurting the children who are our future leaders. Everyone can recognize the absurdity of expecting all children to crawl at a certain age. Likewise, experts tell us that labeling children as deficient before they are developmentally ready to read is extremely harmful. Experts tell us that the average age a child learns to read is 7. Some read earlier and some read later. Please look at this research.
In Finland, where teens score at the top of international reading tests, children don’t start school until age 7 because lawmakers, drawing on the wisdom of experts, understand that many younger kids have not reached the developmental maturity for the more focused structure that we in Minnesota are imposing on younger and younger children. Forcing our children to read before they are developmentally ready is causing them to be falsely labeled as deficient.
Finland also knows that education is local. They respect the expertise and knowledge of local teachers.
National Education Policy Center and Education Deans for Justice recently posted this policy statement, “The Science of Reading,” which provides legislators with proven policies:
I ask you to look to such proven policies instead of legislation that promotes a narrowed and top-down mandated programs that will force the dyslexia label on our children.
It is critical that you read the full report but here are two important points
NEPC calls on legislators to:
*Support the professionalism of K-12 teachers and teacher educators, acknowledging the teacher as the reading expert in the care of unique populations of students.
*Fund low student/teacher ratios
*Guarantee that all students are served based on their identifiable needs in the highest quality teaching and learning conditions possible across all schools:
My own children were late readers. I refused the mandated flawed assessments that would have labeled them as deficient. I know, had I allowed it, my children would have been labeled deficient and even dyslexic and would not be readers now. Instead, I refused to be pressured to force them to read before they were developmentally ready. Fortunately, I am a certified teacher with a wealth of knowledge around literacy acquisition and instead used proven strategies to support them on their reading journeys. I am happy to say that they are all now able, independent readers.
For the future of our Minnesota children repeal the “Read Well by 3rd grade” legislation and reverse policy mandates that have done great harm to our children.
“At the very least, federal and state legislation should not continue to do the same things over and over while expecting different outcomes. The disheartening era of NCLB provides an
Important lesson and overarching guiding principle: Education legislation should address guiding concepts while avoiding prescriptions that will tie the hands of professional educators. All students deserve equitable access to high-quality literacy and reading instruction and opportunities in their schools. This will only be accomplished when policymakers pay heed to an overall body of high-quality research evidence and then make available the resources necessary for schools to provide our children with the needed supports and opportunities to learn”
Stefanie Rysdahl Fuhr has a master’s degree in elementary education and has been advocating for children for 30 years. She is a public school graduate, parent of thriving public school students who learned to read later, public school activist, has been active in the opt-out movement, and co-admin for a local page against personalized learning. She blogs at Tutucker.