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By W. Gardner Selby July 27, 2015

Lawmakers embrace Abbott call for 'reading improvement teams'

If a school is struggling to teach young children to read, candidate Greg Abbott maintained, the state should offer targeted help.

His proposal: Pilot a program creating "reading excellence teams" to be made available on an optional basis to schools with third-grade students who have poor reading test scores. Highly trained reading instruction specialists, he said, could then be invited into classrooms to teach alongside existing staff. Abbott's collection of campaign vows said the teams could be funded with a $2 million appropriation.

Members of the 2015 Legislature embraced the idea, sending Abbott Senate Bill 935, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. It directs the state education commissioner to select school districts that would be eligible to join the "reading excellence team" pilot program, set to expire as of September 2021.

The Texas Education Agency has said there would be four reading excellence teams, which under the proposal would review with chosen districts certain test results to identify classes from kindergarten to third grade in the greatest need of assistance--and then the teams--which the agency says would each consist of three reading instruction specialists--would be made available. The cost of the change in law would be $1.5 million a year, according to the proposal's fiscal note.

Abbott signed the measure into law. He also approved the 2016-17 state budget, which appropriated $3.7 million to implement the law, also authorizing the education agency to add a related position.

We're marking this Abbott Promise KEPT.

Promise Kept — Promises earn this rating when the original promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

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