Retention, Petitions, and House Bills, OH MY!

I am terrified of the retention portion of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). We need to support HB 2625 (without amendments) to help defeat one-test retention.

Recently, I read a post from Claudia Swisher about her love for To Kill a Mockingbird…you can read this post HERE. In the post, she struggled to recall the first time that she read her favorite book.

After I read this great post, I tried to remember the first book that I ever “loved”. I checked-out Danny and the Dinosaur on a weekly basis, while a student in Mrs. Williamson’s kindergarten class. I LOVED the part when they went to the baseball game!

I loved reading at school, but I despised having to go home and  read for 20 minutes, and then have my mom sign my agenda stating that I read at home. I have always been considered a student that had good reading skills. If you know me personally, you know that my mind is always racing. I’m constantly analyzing in my head.  I always have to reread everything! I couldn’t (and still can’t) keep my mind focused on the meaning of the words without slowing down. Because of this, I was a fast “reader”, but a slow comprehender.

I remember loving to read books after recess during elementary school. Just for nostalgia’s sake, here are a few favorites: Where the Red Fern Grows, anything from the Goosebumps collection, Number the Stars, A Dog Called Kitty, Night of the Twisters, Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Sounder, Fudge, and Hatchet.  I could name off several books that I loved in elementary school, so it was very hard for me to think about when I started to dislike reading.

I realized that I started to dislike reading in the sixth grade. My middle school had a period of the day dedicated to “reading for pleasure”. This sounds like a great idea, right? However, this class was driven by a program called, “Accelerated Reader” or “AR”. Each “AR” library book had an associated reading level and point total. At the beginning of the semester, each student participated in a computer assessment. The assessment would place the student at a certain “level” and create a point goal for the student to obtain. As the student completed a book that was in his/her “level”, he/she would complete a computerized comprehension test about the book. The student would then receive a point total based on the result. The student’s grade in the class was determined by the overall progress made towards the semester point goal.

As a student that had to read content repeatedly to comprehend, I hated this class! I hated that my friends could knock out a Harry Potter novel in a week, while it would take me a month! In the middle school brain of mine, I felt that this system favored the students that could read fast and comprehend well, while leaving little room for students that just wanted to read at their own pace. Luckily, I had two older brothers that taught me to purposely fail the initial assessment, thus allowing my semester point goal to be small. As sad as this sounds, this decreased my stress level for AR class.

As I endured this class for three years, I built up a resentment toward reading. Although I was reading, I wasn’t learning how to love reading. I just wanted to read for pleasure.

As I made my way through my undergraduate classes, I began to fall in love with reading again. I had a T.A. in college that recommended, Columbine by Dave Cullen. This book related to a subject matter that intrigued me- a nonfiction account of a major event that altered the current education culture. After I read this book, I began to fall in love with other books, such as: Letters to a Young Poet and Wild at Heart. I also realized that there were several books that I read in middle and high school that I actually loved, such as: The Giver, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn’t realize that I loved these books initially, because I couldn’t get past the negative experiences that I had with reading.

This is why I am terrified of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). I wrote a previous post about RSA titled, “Houston, we have a (testing) problem”. I continue to hear stories about 3rd grade students having test anxiety, because they are afraid that they will be retained. It makes me sick. Countless elementary students are already being labeled as “successes” or “failures”, because of their score on this reading test.

The phrase that keeps getting tossed around is, “reading is a skill”. I totally agree with this statement. However, I also believe that this skill has to be nurtured through positive experiences. I fear that our students will begin to view  reading as a potential punishment, instead of a skill that creates a world of learning. I fear that RSA is creating a generation of students that will resent reading, learning, and school. We must fight against this style of retainment if we want to create a generation of competitive scholars, workers, and leaders. Retainment should be discussed and decided by people that are involved in the lives of each student…a test should not decide this.

House Bill 2625 would allow parents, teachers, and administrators to determine the promotion or retainment of a student, based on individual strengths and needs. As the state PLAC’s have made clear, it is important to support this bill with no amendments! We want it to be clear that Oklahoman’s parents want and need a continual voice in their student’s promotion or retainment!

HB 2625 will be heard in the Senate Common Education Committee on Monday, March 31! It would be great if the committee and our local Senators arrive Monday morning with thousands of emails and voicemails requesting their support of HB 2625 with no amendments…especially since they will face thousands of us that day at the rally! Parent voices are the most important and effective in this fight!

As I have stated before, it is extremely easy to contact your Representatives and Senators. You can find the contact information for your Legislators HERE.

This is literally all you have to do… call the numbers and/or email.

The secretary or voicemail will answer, or you will email, and you will tell them:

1) My name is_________. 2) I am from ___________. 3) I want the Senator to vote “YES!” on HB 2625 with no amendments. 4) My phone number is _________ (if they even ask for a phone number). It’s literally that easy friends. Remember, these people are working for us!

Feel free to add any personalization to it.  Tell them why you feel the way that you do!

Senator John Ford (Chair) 405-521-5634
Senator Gary Stanislawski (Vice Chair) 405-521-5624
Senator Josh Brecheen 405-521-5586
Senator Earl Garrison 405-521-5533
Senator Jim Halligan 405-521-5572
Senator David Holt 405-521-5636
Senator Clark Jolley 405-521-5622
Senator Susan Paddack 405-521-5441
Senator Wayne Shaw 405-521-5574
Senator Ralph Shortey 405-521-5557
Senator John Sparks 405-521-5553
Senator Ron Sharp 405-521-5539

I am supporting this bill to ensure that we are creating positive experiences for our students. Honestly, I do not see how a one-test retention policy would prove to be a positive decision…it hasn’t been proven to be positive anywhere else.

An additional way to support our students is to visit and sign the petition. You can also access the “No On Barresi” Facebook page HERE. This is a petition expressing “No Confidence” for State Superintendent Barresi. This was created by a parent from Yukon, Rebecca Cunningham. The Tulsa World had a great article about the petition… you can access the article HERE. This petition is a symbolic effort to show that Oklahomans are tired of a regime that has caused negative experiences to our children. The goal is to have 10,000 signatures for rally on Monday. We are ready to have confidence in a leader that truly cares about Oklahoma’s children.

I do not want another student to lose their enjoyment for reading and school. I’m ready for children to find pleasure and passion in reading and school, instead of fear.


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2 Responses to Retention, Petitions, and House Bills, OH MY!

  1. Carol says:

    This is amazing Seth!! Thank you so much for doing it. You are the greatest–always my fav frosh 🙂

  2. Oh, how I needed this tonight…have had a rough day fighting demons at Norman North…now I remember what I’m fighting for…for kids. You’ve given me courage.

    On a side note…COLUMBINE!! OMG! What a book.

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