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.
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.