Nearly 60 percent of school children in Wisconsin cannot read at grade level, and a group of advocates say part of that can be blamed on how teachers instruct kids to read.
The group, Wisconsin Call to Action for Reading Excellence (WI-CARE), on Wednesday said the state needs to embrace the science of reading.
"We know what works, let's start doing it," WI-CARE's John Humphries told reporters at the Capitol. "We don't need any more money. No new mandates. No new requirements. We ask that Wisconsin start teaching our children to read proficiently."
Humphries, who is the superintendent in the small town of Thorp in west-central Wisconsin, said schools across the state will never improve reading levels if they continue to teach reading in the same old way.
The latest test results from Wisconsin's standardized tests show that proficiency for ELA [English Language Arts] is at 39.3 percent.
Amy Penterman is a mom and a school board member in Thorp. She said most parents think their kids are reading competent because the state and district report cards say so.
"The State Superintendent recently said that on state report cards issued for the 2019-2019 school year, overall 87 percent of rated schools met or exceeded expectations. As did 96 percent of the state's 421 public school districts," Pentermen said. "When in fact, many schools that meet or exceed expectations on the DPI report card have less than 50 percent proficiency in reading."
WI-CARE is proposing a sweeping action plan that would do everything from correcting report cards to reflect students' actual reading levels to providing teachers with more support to change how they teach. Additionally, WI-CARE is advocating for the University of Wisconsin System to change its programs for prospective teachers.
Humphries said if parents see just how much their kids are struggling to read, the state of Wisconsin will be forced to act.
"Our call to action is directed at parents. Seek out the data on your children's schools," Humphries said. "Advocate, ask questions, and demand better results. Hold us accountable as educators."
Lawmakers at the Wisconsin Capitol are due to wrap-up the session by the end of the month, so it's doubtful the legislature will do anything with the group's demands. It is unknown what, if anything, the Department of Public Instruction will do.