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Senate revives, advances reading bill that would hold back some first-graders

Updated: 2013-03-27T12:59:34Z

BY BRENT D. WISTROM

Eagle Topeka bureau

— Gov. Sam Brownback’s effort to improve fourth-grade reading levels by jump-starting new programs and holding back failing third-graders got new life Tuesday, but it now would hold back first-graders.

After significantly watering down the Read to Succeed Act, the Senate approved the plan on a voice vote.

The altered plan only applies to districts with below-average reading levels, and it raised questions about what tests first graders would be judged on.

Parents and teachers could recommend advancing first-graders with approval from principals and superintendents.

It’s unclear how many students might be affected by the bill, but it includes funding and appears to help reach a goal that almost everyone agrees on, improving reading skills of Kansas students, said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist with the Kansas Association of School Boards.

“The Kansas trends show we’re getting there anyway,” he said.

Tallman was among many who questioned the impact of holding back third-graders, as Brownback had proposed. The idea initially failed in a Senate committee, but it was revived by lawmakers, in part, because it is among the governor’s top goals.

A final vote on the amended version of Substitute for House Bill 2140 is expected late Tuesday or Wednesday.

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