JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A plan to raise reading requirements for third-graders survived the Mississippi Senate by one vote Wednesday.
Senators voted 25-24 to pass Senate Bill 2157, which would require third-graders to score higher than they have to now on a reading test to advance to fourth grade.
The bill was held over for more debate in the Senate before it moves to the House, which is considering its own proposal.
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright wants to raise requirements because students now must score at only a basic level, meaning some pass without reading proficiently.
Some Republican senators oppose the bill because it writes current reading teacher training into law, allowing the state to contract with the provider without seeking competing proposals.
“We’re going to codify a specific vendor?” asked Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula. “This would exempt them from a (request for proposals) moving forward.”
After the vote, Tollison said the state Department of Education had asked for the vendor to be written into law, after a third-party study found the training has been effective.
At least 92 percent of third-graders scored at or above the basic level required after retests last spring, and local districts may have promoted additional students to fourth grade using legal exemptions. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has repeatedly hailed the third-grade reading law as a success.
The higher bar could catch many more third-graders. Scores from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of Colleges and Careers test given to Mississippi third-graders last spring suggest the number in danger of scoring in the lowest two tiers could be about 35 percent. That could change because Mississippi is adopting a new test this year and must still set scoring expectations.
ALSO AT THE CAPITOL:
— The House removed a procedural hold from a bill it passed Friday, sending it to the Senate. House Bill 1523 says state officials, private business owners and others who provide services to the public couldn’t be punished for acting on religious beliefs that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
— The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2418, which would add domestic abuse as a 13th ground for divorce. The bill moves to the House.
— Gov. Phil Bryant praised the Senate for passing Senate Bill 2156, which would change the definition of “abused child” to include children who are victims of human trafficking. The bill moves to the House.
— The House passed House Bill 880, which would allow state employees to qualify for pensions in four years, not the current eight years. The bill moves to the Senate.