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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 29, 2013

Not exactly as envisioned, but measures are in place

As a candidate, Gov. Scott Walker promised to end the "social promotion" of third-graders who can't read -- in other words, to stop passing students who aren't academically prepared for fourth grade.

In March 2011, Walker announced the Read to Lead Task Force, saying it would "ensure that every Wisconsin child learns to read by the third grade." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said at the time he had agreed to serve as the vice chairman, but criticized the governor's proposal to spend $1.2 million to develop a third-grade reading assessment linked to the initiative, calling it redundant and possibly illegal.

In August 2011, we rated this Walker promise In the Works.

Several months later, Walker said that Evers and others convinced him to change his position on holding kids back. Department of Public Instruction spokesman John Johnson told us the task force had reviewed research indicating that retaining kids in third grade led to higher dropout rates later.

Asked about the promise, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson pointed out that in April 2012 the Legislature adopted Act 166, an education reform law that was based in part on recommendations from the Read to Lead Task Force.

Among other things, the law creates a Read to Lead Development Fund to provide grants to support literacy and early childhood development programs; adds qualifications and training for teachers; and requires that all kindergarten pupils be screened for reading readiness. If a screening indicates a student is "at risk of reading difficulty," the student must be given remedial reading services, according to the Legislative Council.

DPI's Johnson told us that as part of the state's 2013-'15 budget the department added reading screenings for 4-year-old kindergarten students as well as those in first and second grades.

Our rating

Walker has not ended social promotion of third-graders who can't read. But he has helped put in place measures to assess and give reading assistance to kids, in an effort to ensure they have the proper reading skills before reaching fourth grade.

We rate this promise a Compromise.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 29, 2011

Task force is working on it, but not even all members are full on board

As a candidate, Gov. Scott Walker promised to end the "social promotion” of third-graders who cannot read -- in other words, to stop passing to fourth grade students who aren't prepared for the next grade.

On March 31, 2011, Walker announced with an executive order the creation of a Read to Lead Task Force that he said would "ensure that every Wisconsin child learns to read by the third grade.” He gave the 14-member group -- which he heads -- a number of guidelines, including this one:

"A student must be given multiple opportunities on a number of different assessments to prove he or she can read before being non-promoted. A child will not be held back based simply on the results of one high-stakes test.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said at the time he had agreed to serve as the task force's vice chairman, but hasn't made any "commitment or support" for the governor's recommendations. He criticized the governor's proposal to spend $1.2 million over the next two years to develop a third-grade reading assessment linked to the initiative, calling it redundant and possibly illegal.

In August 2011, Evers was accused of attempting to accelerate his department"s reform work to head off any initiatives proposed by Walker. An Evers spokesman said at the time that the work has yet to result in any final recommendations.

The WisconsinEye network has video of the task force's most recent meeting on July 29, 2011.

We rate this promise In the Works.

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