Gov. Walker unveils plan for reading instruction

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GREENDALE — Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker created a task force plan called Read to Lead in April of last year to improve childhood reading, and Wednesday, Walker unveiled that plan at Highland View Elementary School in Greendale.

Walker says from the time someone is born, until the third grade, they are essentially learning to read, and from third grade on, they are using reading to learn. But learning is hampered if the foundation of reading is not proficient. Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers says there’s an urgent need for improvement. “In the area of reading, we have stagnated over the past decade. We really need to rachet up our work around reading instruction,” Evers said.

The task force’s recommendation for reading improvement includes evaluating kindergarteners for reading proficiency, and to discover where their abilities lie. Senator Luther Olsen says knowing childrens’ reading abilities helps teachers better address their needs.

Two other task force recommendations include a plan beginning in the 2013-2014 school year where all prospective elementary and special education teachers must pass a rigorous literacy skills test. Also, the task force hopes for special intervention for struggling teachers during the licensing process. “We need to invest in the teachers, to make sure that they have the adequate skills in order to have the students read well,” Evers said.

$600,000 in funding is already built into the budget for the screeners, and to get the program started.

One parent protesting outside Highland View Elementary in Greendale Wednesday complained that Walker is putting money in one program, while cutting others. “We’ve already seen our computer lab taken away from the school because of budget cuts. I don’t want to see more. I don’t want to see more teachers retire,” Jason Patzfahl said. The protesters also had recall Walker petitions.

The Read to Lead program would also provide a financial incentive to early childhood centers to provide quality programs. It also seeks legislative action that would allow private dollars to fund and support reading programs that are working in the state.