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Fallin Signs Reading Sufficiency Act, Teacher Evaluation, Other Education Measures

Gov. Mary Fallin reads to children on the lawn of the governor's mansion in Oklahoma City in September 2012.
Governor Mary Fallin
Gov. Mary Fallin reads to children on the lawn of the governor's mansion in Oklahoma City in September 2012.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a slew of education-related bills Wednesday. The five new laws are aimed at improving education in Oklahoma.

Potentially the most controversial of the laws is Senate Bill 630, which deals with the third grade reading test. The law allows reading teams to promote a child to the fourth grade on a probationary basis despite a low score on their test. If it hadn’t passed, students who scored low on the test, and did not meet an exemption, would have automatically been held back.  

“Children ‘learn to read’ from kindergarten through third grade; in higher grades, they ‘read to learn.’ If children are to succeed in fourth grade and beyond, they need to have grade-appropriate reading skills,” Fallin said in a statement. “The Reading Sufficiency Act puts into place a rigorous system for measuring student reading and provides extra attention and instruction for children who are falling behind. The extension of the reading teams ensures that parents are well-informed about their children’s progress and working cooperatively with teachers to get those children up to grade-level.”

Under the new law, reading teams to determine who is struggling to read at grade-appropriate levels will start in first grade, rather than third grade.

Another bill aims at improving student safety by requiring school administrators to notify the state board of education when a teacher is dismissed or resigns for accusations that are criminal in nature.

The Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock reports districts who want to hire teachers will have a confidential database to check under the measure by Norman Democratic state Sen. John Sparks.

“It provides a framework for school districts who are hiring teachers to have some level of confidence that these individuals have not had serious problems at other schools,” Sparks said. Under the measure, teachers who are reported to the State Department of Education are given an opportunity to supplement the record at the state level and again when the information is provided to the local district, Sparks said. Sparks said the measure has some “safeguards to make sure teachers don’t get caught up in witch hunts.”

Other bills address the way teachers and school performance are evaluated.

The Oklahoma Public Media Exchange's Emily Wendler contributed to this report.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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