Bill to Eliminate Standards for Teaching Reading Is Shelved for the Year

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A controversial state Senate bill that would have eliminated the requirement for prospective elementary school teachers to show competence in research-based reading instruction is dead for the year.

Speak UP had joined educational justice groups such as EdVoice, reading experts and advocates for kids with dyslexia in opposing SB 614, sponsored by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), who pulled the bill Monday and placed it on a two-year schedule. This means the bill may resurface in January.

The powerful California Teachers Association had supported the bill, claiming the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment was an undue barrier to entering the teaching profession, even though more than 80% of prospective teachers pass the RICA test.

Eliminating science-based standards for teaching reading does nothing to help kids, especially those that have the most difficulty learning to read.  

“When over half of California’s students cannot read at grade level, it is deeply concerning that the state would eliminate the sole uniform requirement for teachers of children in the early grades to demonstrate their knowledge of teaching reading with science-based instruction,” Speak UP said in a joint letter with EdVoice to lawmakers.  “It is especially alarming for at-risk students and students with dyslexia, who are often the most in need of strong, explicit, systematic reading instruction in order to become fluent readers.” 

An audit of California’s teacher preparation programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality revealed that only 16% currently teach scientifically-based reading methods such as phonics, or sounding out words.

“The scientific evidence is clear: Humans don’t naturally learn how to read, they must be taught,” said the EdVoice/Speak UP letter. “But SB 614 would deny that science… and take California backwards to an era where experimental and otherwise non-proven methods for teaching reading were the norm. This would be a serious mistake and one that California’s children simply cannot afford.”